Gatty's Tale

Gatty's Tale by Kevin Crossley-Holland has been sitting next to my bed for so long I've forgotten how and where I acquired it. It's second hand, but not from Brown and Bunting; nor is it an ex-library book, and I'm sure I didn't buy it from Brotherhood Books either. Mystery! Perhaps it was one of those books that turns up in the library book sale, donated by other people?

I read and loved Crossley-Holland's Arthur trilogy a few years ago, and Gatty's Tale is a stand-alone follow-up to Arthur's story. In this novel, set in the Middle Ages, fifteen year old Gatty is sent to serve as a chamber maid to Lady Gwyneth, who decides to undertake a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. With eight companions, including Gatty, they set out on the perilous journey to the Holy Land -- but not all the pilgrims will reach the end of their quest.

Kevin Crossley-Holland's writing is among the best I've ever encountered -- shining, spare, and lit with a bright flame of faith, it's utterly suited to the recreation of the medieval world. But there are striking modern parallels here, too -- principally, the distrust and fear of the 'Saracens' (Muslims) who possess the Holy Land. Gatty comes to realise that Christians, Jews and Saracens are all 'good and bad, mixed up together' and that demonising one race or religion is pointless.

I loved this book, and I really hope that it found the audience that it deserves.

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