NESFA Members' Reviews

coverA Vision of Light

by Judith Merkle Riley

A book review by Mark L. Olson

Delacorte, 1989, 442 pp, $19.95

Margaret is a young Englishwoman married to a rich London merchant. It is about the year 1350, the end of the high Middle Ages, the Black Death is about and so is the Hundred Year's War between England and France. Margaret's a bit unusual in that she has decided that she wants to write - dictate, since she's not literate - her autobiography. Her husband, doting and always interested in novelty, agrees and hires a penniless cleric, Brother Gregory to write her story.

Her story is complex and interesting, beginning in a village where her stepmother is a brewmistress, progressing through a very unhappy marriage and her abandonment when plague hits. She survives with the help of a village midwife and the two of them go on the road with a fake friar who sells fake relics and a couple of other con men/entertainers.

Margaret somehow receives the gift of healing and uses it now and then - it's not a big, showy thing, and usually can't heal great wounds or dread diseases - helps out by healing people. They make their way to London where the friar spends his time trying to make the Philosopher's Stone, and Margaret learns the trade of midwife.

Complexities happen, and ultimately Margaret's use of her healing gift on wealthy patients rouses the enmity of the 'doctors' of the time and she's forced to cease as a midwife.

There is a lot more to her story than the bare bones I've recounted here and it's all told in a most enjoyable way through her dictation and Brother Gregory's questioning - he's a crabby and disapproving sort, being a young man given to excess and presently being excessively religious. The people are believable and entertaining and it's a wonderful story.

In Pursuit of the Green Lion is a direct sequel.

Recommended (if you can find a copy.)

See also my reviews of other books by Judith Merkle Riley: The Master of All Desires, In Pursuit of the Green Lion, and The Oracle Glass

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