Thursday, October 22, 2009

The White Company

By Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Plot Synopsis (sorta...)

The White Company is set during the 100 Years War and fallows the lives of several Englishman as they travel (fighting along the way ;-) from England through France and Spain and back again. It is crammed with historical info along with a compelling although, sometimes slow, plot.
(Doyle obviously did a lot of research and sometimes shows it off with page long list of the names of 12th century knights.)

The story follows the lives of four assorted men;

Sir Nigel Loring, a small, feisty yet aging knight who is well known, but poor and spends much of his time looking for honorable advancement (fighting).

Alleyne Edricson, a young man just loosed from being a novice at an Abbey for the first 20 years of his life. (A very cool character, but one does tire of Doyle's comments about his blond, curling, English locks....)

John Hordle, a huge, red-headed Englishman who is very capable of cracking a joke (and heads).
and Samkin Alyward, a hardened and expert bowman.

The book holds all the promise of a medieval tale (saving the damsel in distress, knighthood, chivalry, etc...) and pulls it off remarkably well.

I recommend it, but want say much more, so don't I spoil it for you. Mwhahaha...

Some unusual things about it really made it interesting for me. Alleyne father dies soon after his
birth and entrusts him to the monks of the Abbey with the agreement that when he is 20 he may leave and see the world. Before the end of that year he must decide if he would like to return to the Abbey and become a monk or stay in the world.

He begins piously thinking he will return and is completely shocked at the state of the world. But amazingly, by the end it has come very clear to him that it is those in the world that are changing it, not those hiding in cells. (This all comes about in a very cool way...not exactly how its coming across. :-) Whatever weeds Doyle might have strayed off to later in life, his view on the Church and Christ are very refreshing here.

Doyle also does an excellent job of portraying believable and compelling leaders. His patriotism and take on chivalry do him credit.
Fighting is very much for a cause or for loyalty to a leader, and has little to do with hate. Many of the French and Spanish characters are nearly as cool as the English.

Some of his characters crazy delight in "honorable advancement" and war in general is a bit weird...

Note on the Author

As you probably all know, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is also the author of Sherlock Holmes, among a series about Professor Challenger, science fiction, historical novels, plays and romancnes, political works, and scattered poetry.

He considered Sherlock Holmes a way to pay the bills for many years. He actually killed him (the time he's not really dead) because he was irritated with the public for their love of Holmes and their indifference of his other works. He believed he needed more time for writing "serious" stuff.

In November of 1891 he wrote his mother: "I think of slaying Holmes...and winding up for good and all. He takes my mind from better things."
His mother responded, saying, "You may do what you deem fit, but the crowds will not take this lightheartedly."
Well...Doyle didn't listen to his mama and after off handedly murdering Holmes was forced to bring him back, both because of popular demand and because of failing finances. (The off handedly isn't really historically accurate...just bitterness seeping through...)

Doyle considered his historical and political works to be his greatest, and often said The White Company was one of his favorites.

Although I don't think any of his characters could possibly be as compelling and fasinating (and lovable :-) as Sherlock Holmes, I enjoyed the players in The White Company. (BTW, we are talking strictly of the book Sherlock Holmes here.:-)

Miss Pickwickian

1 comment:

Polka Dot said...

Shoulda listened to his Mama.