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The Illuminator

The Illuminator


The Illuminator

ratings:
3.5/5 (23 ratings)
Length:
6 hours
Publisher:
Released:
Mar 1, 2005
ISBN:
9781593976583
Format:
Audiobook

Also available as...

Also available as bookBook

Also available as...

Also available as bookBook

Description

A glowing first novel that brings us "historical fiction in the grand epic manner, beautifully felt and written"*
It is England, in the fourteenth century-a time of plague, political unrest and the earliest stirrings of the Reformation. The printing press had yet to be invented, and books were rare and costly, painstakingly lettered by hand and illuminated with exquisite paintings. Finn is a master illuminator who works not only for the Church but also, in secret, for John Wycliffe of Oxford, who professes the radical idea that the Bible should be translated into English for everyone to read. Finn has another secret as well, one that leads him into danger when he meets Lady Kathryn of Blackingham Manor, a widow struggling to protect her inheritance from the depredations of Church and Crown alike. Finn's alliance with Lady Kathryn will take us to the heart of what
Barbara Tuchman once called "the calamitous fourteenth century." Richly detailed and irresistibly compelling, The Illuminator is a glorious story of love, art, religion, and treachery at an extraordinary turning point in history.

Publisher:
Released:
Mar 1, 2005
ISBN:
9781593976583
Format:
Audiobook

Also available as...

Also available as bookBook

About the author

BRENDA RICKMAN VANTREASE is a former English teacher and librarian who has traveled extensively in the British Isles. She is the author of the novels The Illuminator, The Mercy Seller, and The Heretic's Wife. She holds a Ph.D. in English and lives in Nashville, Tennessee.


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Reviews

What people think about The Illuminator

3.6
23 ratings / 21 Reviews
What did you think?
Rating: 0 out of 5 stars

Reader reviews

  • (5/5)
    This book turned out to be different than what I expected, better than expected. I read some of the reviews and one person said she threw it away after reading about the immorality taking place within the first few chapters, leaving her with a feeling that a book somewhat based on John Wycliffe, was tarnished and off the path of a story of a man with high morals. Brenda Vantrease beautifully weaves the hungry quest for Biblical knowledge, as well as failure on many levels of human nature into this 1300's heartbreaking story with grace and dignity. If you keep reading, the consequences of the main character's sins do surely catch up with them. It is romantic and heartbreaking, Deep and moving. The lives of those in these primitive days are truly astounding, and the power of the church dictating every living soul to the point of despair and even death. The ending has a profound with an unexpected twist. Colorful characters and vivid descriptions keep you turning the pages wanting more. Highly recommended.
  • (1/5)
    The contrivances--historical inaccuracies of behavior--really threw me in this book. Additionally, this is far too much romance for me. It might be to someone else's taste, but it is not to mine.
  • (1/5)
    One star only for the theme which is translating the Bible into common English for the average person to read and benefit. Bringing to life the tale behind the Holy Bible is a huge responsibility I thought. This author delved into the carnal nature of human sexuality too often and early enough in the story to deter further reading as a result I dumped the book in the garbage a few weeks ago. I would be sure to understand fiction is what this tale is based on; however it does not do the theme justice. Perhaps the second book will be better and I will be sure to pick up a copy if I find at thrift as I surely would not spend hard earned money on a new copy considering the content of the first read...
  • (5/5)
    I loved the story in this book, but the end was too sudden. It's like the author got tired of writing and decided to just end it.
  • (4/5)
    This book is tagged as a historical mystery. As historical fiction goes, this was an excellent and well-researched book. The characters were well-developed and you could feel the emotions of their struggles as you read. As a mystery, well, it flopped. They were supposed to be solving the murder of a priest, but most of the time, I think they forgot about him. However, the rest of the story was so fascinating that I really didn't care. I will definitely be checking out the next book to find out what happens.
  • (4/5)
    While this book had some common themes for historical fiction of this era, it also had enough unique elements to make it more interesting. A widow is asked by the bishop to house an artisan who illuminates manuscripts and his young daughter. This is not a fluffy romance -- political and religious issues, social uprisings, illness and death are all present, but the heroine is strong and independent, leading to a surprising finish. Recommended.
  • (5/5)
    I started to read this book when it was first launched, put it down and forgot about it - don't know why! This was an amazing story that, two days after finishing it, I'm still thinking about the characters and the great story. Christian Mythos, Historical Theology is my area of concentration and this story about the Lollard Movement in late 14th century England was fascinating, especially when the general public just assumes the reformation was started in England by Henry VIII's divorce of Catherine of Aragon - the call for reformation began a over a century earlier.

    The characters in this book were outstanding and real: the cool, patrician, Lady Kathryn who is bitter after marriage to the odious Roderick, a dutiful 14th century woman; the liberal, independent thinker, the illuminator Finn; Magda, a young girl with a special gift, and dame Julian of Norwich, who, from her anchorage, knows more about life than the people out in the secular world. This is a a spiritual and emotional journey that is breathtaking. The prose and dialogue are solid, real and engages the mind and heart. A definite recommendation for a must read.
  • (5/5)
    The author says, ”This is a work of fiction, but the characters of Bishop Henry Despenser, John Wycliffe, Julian of Norwich, and John Ball are historical figures whose histories I have braided with the lives of my fictional characters.” This reader says, “Great debut! Please continue braiding!” Ms. Vantrease has created characters so alive in their time and place, and her settings so real, that the reader feels herself there among the people of the manor trying to deal with the political and religious intrigue that threatens to strip them of everything, and among the peasants who work at the manor and with the sheep, trying to keep their families alive. One of my pet peeves is a story that reeks of the author’s scholarship glaring from its crannies. Even though this is her debut book, Ms. Vantrease has not made that mistake. Hers is a seamless story where life of that time comes alive through the art of her pen. It is not a perfect book, but it is quite illuminating to that time in history, and I did enjoy it.
  • (2/5)
    This was a pretty 'meh' book. The characters were pretty well flushed out but the plot wasn't really well developed. It seemed she sent characters away so she wouldn't have to deal with them. The ending was a major disappointment. It sort of slammed to a halt rather than easing into it or something more plausable. And while I'm sure this is just a condition of my having read too many fiction books, it was too predictable for me. I knew what was going to happen before the book was half over. And it took almost that long for me to develop any interest in finishing the book.
  • (4/5)
    Overall I enjoyed this novel and it did hold my attention for the most part. I was irritated with the ending, but mostly because I found it unsatisfying. The characters are well developed and I enjoyed both the major characters and those in supporting roles equally. It felt rushed at times and some of the plot points felt forced and superfluous.
  • (4/5)
    Not a bad first novel. It kept my attention well but it seemed to me that the characters went from flirting with each other straight into bed. I was hoping for a bit more historical accuracy in the characters but still an overall pleasant read.
  • (2/5)
    All in all, I liked it. Good character development for the most part and interesting that some of the characters are based on actual figures in history. Satisfying ending.
  • (3/5)
    I liked this book a lot, mostly because of its inclusion of rather unusual characters: a dwarf, a bee-charming waif, and an anchoress. The main characters were actually far less interesting that the supporting cast. I think the story was average, but taken it total, very pleasing.
  • (5/5)
    I love historical fiction when it is well-written and this one did not disappoint me. I enjoyed it so much that I immediately did a search to find other books I could read by this author.
  • (5/5)
    Set in Britian in the 14th century. I adored the bits of history intertwined with the lives of, what to me were very compelling and believable characters. Lady Katherine is trying to keep her household estate of Blackinham together, which is not easy as a widow. The church officials keep coming to demand more money, and the state keeps levying taxes. She has the future of her 15 year old twin sons to consider, so when more income in the form of a boarder and his daughter is offered to her she accepts the offer. Her life becomes entangled with the boarder--an illuminator named Finn--and his daughter Rose in more ways than she could have imagined when they first came to live with her. These ordinary people are involved in big things, and as the political battles of the state and the church go on around them they cannot help but become involved. A chief issue is the translation of the Bible into English, championed by John Wycliffe but bitterly opposed by the church. Thus catholic church and government officials are often the villians in this book, but the main villian is an ordinary steward taking advantage of his mistress and causing havoc wherever he goes. I loved the unlikely heroes in the story, like Half-Tom the dwarf and Magda the simple (yet wise) servant girl. I just loved this story, it had enough suspense to keep me going, but I also enjoyed the bits of historical detail and the intriguing characters. Fans of historical fiction or religous thrillers should give it a try.
  • (5/5)
    May, 2008Set in late 14th century England. Real historical characters include Bishop Henry Despenser (the warrior bishop, put down the Peasants' Revolt) who also commissioned the Despenser reredos, a five paneled altarpiece in the Norwich Cathedral. Other real people: John Wycliffe, protestant reformer; John Ball who led the Peasants' Revolt; and Julian of Norwich, an anchoress who wrote Divine Revelations in common English, which espoused a concept of a mother God.Story concerns Finn, the fictional illuminator who created the reredos, and also helped promote Wycliffe's translations for the common people. Finn and his daughter live as boarders with the widow Kathryn who is trying to hang onto her independence and her manor.Great story, great romance.
  • (4/5)
    Finn is an artist who paints the beautiful page edges and endpapers in Latin holy books for the English Catholic Church in 1380. This is his story, enmeshed in the political battle for the English peasant to obtain copies of the Bible in their own language, to read for themselves. The author develops all of her characters well and really brings the period to life. The way she describes the political situation of the time brings understanding to the modern reader. I enjoyed this book and look forward to reading the next!
  • (4/5)
    This was a very solid first novel. Vantrease uses the language well, writes very evocatively and, with considerable skill, and dignified a story that could have devolved into historical romance with some solid research. I admired the fact that she avoided the common (almost universal) trap of aggressively projecting 21st Century values onto 14th Century characters--a problem which crops up regularly in historical novels. This is by no means a happy book. People are treated unjustly, villains prevail, good guys die, and the lovers don't live happily ever after. In spite of that, the tone remains hopeful and pays tribute to the indomitability of the human spirit. Vantrease has gotten off to a late, but very promising start with her writing. I will look for more from this author.
  • (3/5)
    This was a fun read, but a little bit sensational and not entirely illuminating about the time period or artwork.
  • (3/5)
    By most of my standards, this is not a very good book, but it certainly made me want to read & keep reading--it's a real page turner. Set around 1380 near Norwich, England, with John Wycliffe & Julian of Norwich as significant background figures, it features a widowed noble lady (and her twin 15-year-old sons) and a widowed illuminator (one who creates artwork for manuscripts) and his 15-year-old daughter. The main characters are all heroic, good, hones, & true to the core (though they often make tragic choices) who suffer tragedy after tragedy after tragedy, each one sadder than the one before, at the hands of a few villains with no redeeming qualities. You wouldn't think I would like it at all (Oh, yes, and the love scenes seemed to be thrown in--and written as if--the author knew, against her better judgment, that she needed to include them), but, as I said, I certainly wanted to keep reading, and I cared deeply about what happened to the heroes. Given the ending, which sets up a sequel, I may well have another chance to follow their further adventures.
  • (1/5)
    Starts off well, then sinks into improbabilities, and finishes off by completely ignoring everything it had established about its characters. Not recommended.