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The World, the Flesh, and the Devil by Reay Tannahill

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The World, the Flesh, and the Devil by Reay Tannahill

Post by LCW » Tue August 26th, 2008, 5:20 pm

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Feuds, schemes, rebellion, family ties, and love in 15th Century Scotland, July 22, 2008

This novel is set in Scotland and is centered around the true life feud between Bishop Gavin Cameron, chancellor to King James as well as his closest friend, and Archdeacon Columba Crozier. For various reason's Columba has been deprived of his benefices and holds Gavin responsible. Columba's entire family, including his step-neice, Ninianne, is drawn into this feud. Columba's son, Adam, is particularly zealous in his fathers defense and ends up stirring up the Highlanders against the King and Bishop Cameron.

Meanwhile, Ninanne and Gavin are strongly attracted to each other but their divided loyalties (not to mention Gavin's priestly vows) come between them. Ninanne finds herself caught up in the intrigues of her family and is torn between her deep love for both Gavin and Columba.

This novel gives a fascinating look inside Papal politics and all the intrigue and scheming that goes on within the Catholic Church and King James's court. The characters are well drawn and complex. We see Ninianne grow from a flighty 17 yr old newlywed to a mature woman who sees more than her share of heartache and loss. The relationship between Columba and his children is very touching and real.

I absolutely loved the title and, IMO, "the world" represents Gavin's closeness and preference for dealing with the earthly matters of his friend the King. "The Flesh" represents temptation in the form of his attraction to and ultimately deep love for Ninianne. "The Devil" manifests in Gavin's doubts in the churches teachings and his inner struggles with belief in free will vs. predestination. I have a thing for books with great titles and this was one of them!

Any lover of historical fiction enjoy all the great history here. The romantic aspect is, IMO, secondary to the depiction of the political intrigues and the strain between Church and State. It was missing that "something" that would make me give it 5 stars but all in all it was not bad!

4/5 stars

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MLE (Emily Cotton)
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Interest in HF: started in childhood with the classics, which, IMHO are HF even if they were contemporary when written.
Favourite HF book: Prince of Foxes, by Samuel Shellabarger
Preferred HF: Currently prefer 1600 and earlier, but I'll read anything that keeps me turning the page.
Location: California Bay Area

Post by MLE (Emily Cotton) » Tue April 27th, 2010, 8:21 pm

I just finished this, and enjoyed it immensely. Reay Tannahill's characters are fully fleshed; they think, breathe, grow and change. The politics of the fifteenth-century Catholic church and how it affected the rise and fall of kings -- and how kings manipulated the system -- became fascinating clay in the hands of this author.

Her two warring churchmen were so secular-- as was the church of their day -- that what could have been a dry exploration of philosophy and history became an action-packed, knife-and-sword-wielding romance that ranged from rebellious Scottish tribes to the everyday heartbreak of women in its scope. The plot included the discussion of free-will versus predestination, but made it very clear that this was no academic exercise, but something where a difference of opinion could send you to the stake, or be used in the hands of an enemy to bring down a chancellor--and his king.

And as for the romantic element, I'm going to nominate Gavin Cameron for my lover's hall of fame. A man who is both self-controlled AND puts his beloved's welfare first, even if it means the death of his own happiness.

Very well done!

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cw gortner
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Post by cw gortner » Tue April 27th, 2010, 11:26 pm

I agree! I loved this book; I bought a paperback in London aeons ago during a trip, finally took it off the shelf (the pages had yellowed!) and read it not too long ago, and promptly searched the internet for a used hc I could own.

This is a grand historical, the kind you can sink into.
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Post by Misfit » Tue April 27th, 2010, 11:43 pm

My copy has somehow made it to the very bottom of the very most forgotten pile of all my books. Must correct that ;)
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