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Crossing to Paradise

Review

Crossing to Paradise

Many readers of Kevin Crossley-Holland's earlier novels may remember spunky field girl Gatty from his Arthur Trilogy, which blended together the legend of King Arthur with the quest of a young Crusader also named Arthur. In CROSSING TO PARADISE, Gatty gets her own story --- and reaches places her beloved Arthur never could.

No one at Caldicot is quite sure what to do with 15-year-old Gatty. Alone in the world except for her cow, Hopeless, Gatty has been out of sorts ever since her beloved friend Arthur left for the Crusades. Sir Walter, Arthur's father, then learns that a Welsh widow, Lady Gwyneth de Ewloe, is looking for a chamber servant to accompany her and a small group of pilgrims to Jerusalem.

At first, neither Gatty nor Lady Gwyneth is sure about this arrangement. As for the other pilgrims, most of them are certain that Lady Gwyneth has made a costly mistake by asking Gatty to accompany them from England through Europe and on to Jerusalem. Gatty is unpolished and ill-mannered, filthy and dressed at first in clothes of sackcloth. But even after a bath and a new dress, Gatty continues to be impulsive, reckless and entirely too bold to be a suitable young woman.

But Gatty, who has the voice of an angel, gradually wins most members of the party over with her sweet songs and kind spirit. And, when tragedy hits, it is Gatty who leads the group to the fulfillment of its pilgrimage. By the time she returns home, she is not the same rough, shy field girl who left Caldicot. Her prospects for the future are bright, and she is no longer alone.

Crossley-Holland has developed into one of the richest chroniclers of the Middle Ages. In his Arthur Trilogy, he explored the experience of a young man's coming of age during the Crusades. In CROSSING TO PARADISE, he examines the possibilities available to medieval women --- both high-born and lowly --- and the long road of medieval pilgrimage.

CROSSING TO PARADISE is clearly inspired by Geoffrey Chaucer's THE CANTERBURY TALES, and his cast of characters --- which includes a noblewoman, a cook, a stableman, a merchant and a choirmaster --- provides numerous insights into medieval lifestyles. His account of pilgrimage is lively and realistic, with memorable forays into London, Venice and Jerusalem, with all their sights, sounds, smells and intrigues. Most memorable, however, is Gatty herself, whose combination of innocence, desire for justice and ability to turn experience into song make for a compelling, complicated heroine.

At one point during their journey, Lady Gwyneth tells Gatty that each of the people they meet on their way has his or her own story and that "all the stories we step into become part of our own story. Our pilgrimage." Readers will relish the opportunity to accompany Gatty on her own pilgrimage, to make her rich story part of their own.

Reviewed by Norah Piehl on October 18, 2011

Crossing to Paradise
by Kevin Crossley-Holland

  • Publication Date: September 1, 2008
  • Genres: Historical Fiction
  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books
  • ISBN-10: 054505866X
  • ISBN-13: 9780545058667