Monday, December 15, 2014

The Oblate’s Confession by William Peak

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Obtained from: Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours
Read: December 15, 2014

England, the 7th century. Petty Anglo-Saxon kingdoms make war upon one another and their Celtic neighbors. Christianity is a new force in the land, one whose hold remains tenuous at best. Power shifts back and forth uneasily between two forms of the new faith: a mystical Celtic Catholicism and a newer, more disciplined form of Catholicism emanating from Rome. Pagan rites as yet survive in the surrounding hills and mountains. Plague sweeps across the countryside unpredictably, its path marked by death and destruction. In keeping with a practice common at the time, an Anglo-Saxon warrior donates his youngest child to the monastery of Redestone, in effect sentencing the boy to spend the rest of his life as a monk. This gift-child, called an oblate, will grow up in the abbey knowing little of his family or the expectations his natural father will someday place upon him, his existence haunted by vague memories of a former life and the questions those memories provoke. Who is his father, the distant chieftain who sired him or the bishop he prays for daily? And to which father, natural or spiritual, will he owe allegiance when, at length, he is called upon to ally himself with one and destroy the other? These are the dilemmas the child faces. The answers will emerge from the years he spends in spiritual apprenticeship to a hermit who lives on the nearby mountain of Modra nect – and his choices will echo across a lifetime.

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I'm not sure what I expected from William Peak's The Oblate's Confession, but the book proved a pleasant surprise. I found the introspective tone of the narrative intriguing, but I felt Peak's decision to write from a child's perspective a stroke of genius. The questions Winwæd asks about faith and the things that capture his interest within the monastery are fascinating, but watching him piece these concepts together as his understanding matures allowed me unique insight to his situation.

On that note, I really appreciated Peak's treatment of religion. I feared the subject might overwhelmed the narrative, but was delighted to discover the author's subtle handling of the material allowed it to flow naturally through the story as easily as the social hierarchy of the monastery or the politics of the day. 
I was similarly impressed with the Winwæd's inner conflicts and appreciated the authenticity in his emotions over the course of the narrative. 

Peak's writing was a little difficult for me to get into and the pacing was tad slow for my particular tastes, but I certainly enjoyed the time I spent with this story. The Oblate's Confession isn't my usual fare, but it is a thought-provoking piece that I'd certainly recommend to fans of medieval fiction. 

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"Simple people—rustics, fools—see this as proof the man is special. They think he is a holy man, some kind of saint.” Father looked at me. “Foolishness, vanity. Everyone wants to think they know a saint, it makes them feel important."
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Check Out All the Stops on William Peak's The Oblate’s Confession Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, December 1
Review at Broken Teepee
Tuesday, December 2
Spotlight & Giveaway at Passages to the Past
Wednesday, December 3
Review at Back Porchervations
Review at A Fantastical Librarian
Thursday, December 4
Spotlight at What Is That Book About
Friday, December 5
Interview at Back Porchervations
Monday, December 8
Review at A Book Geek
Tuesday, December 9
Review at The Writing Desk
Spotlight at Historical Tapestry
Monday, December 15
Review at Flashlight Commentary
Tuesday, December 16
Spotlight at Bibliophilic Book Blog
Thursday, December 18
Review at 100 Pages a Day…Stephanie’s Book Reviews
Guest Post at Books and Benches
Friday, December 19
Review at Book Nerd
Review at bookramblings
Saturday, December 20
Interview at Forever Ashley
Monday, December 22
Spotlight at Let Them Read Books
Tuesday, December 23
Review at Just One More Chapter
Wednesday, December 24
Review at With Her Nose Stuck in a Book
Monday, December 29
Review at The Never-Ending Book
Tuesday, December 30
Spotlight at Historical Fiction Connection
Friday, January 2
Review at Library Educated
Monday, January 5
Review & Interview at Words and Peace
Tuesday, January 6
Spotlight at CelticLady’s Reviews
Wednesday, January 7
Review at A Bibliotaph’s Reviews
Thursday, January 8
Review at Impressions in Ink
Friday, January 9
Review at The True Book Addict
Review & Interview at Jorie Loves a Story


Unknown said...

Dear Erin,
Thank you for the thoughtful review. As you noted, "The Oblate's Confession" is not a fast read. Indeed, I tried to keep each chapter (or section within a chapter) to the length I like to read in bed at night. I imagined my readers drifting off to sleep dreaming of the 7th century. I wish you sweet dreams, good reading, and ...
William Peak

Unknown said...

P.S. I love the name of your blog!
Wm. Peak

Anonymous said...

Thank you!