24 July 2011

Review: The Hardest Thing to Do

The Hardest Thing to DoThe Hardest Thing to Do by Penelope Wilcock

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The first of three sequels to the celebrated The Hawk and the Dove trilogy takes place one year after the end of the third book, in the early fourteenth century. A peaceful monastery is enjoying its new abbot, who is taking the place of Father Peregrine, when an old enemy arrives seeking refuge. Reluctantly taking in Prior William, the upended community must address old fears and bitterness while warily seeking reconciliation. But can they really trust Prior William?

In her fourth book in the series, Penelope Wilcock wrestles with the difficulties of forgiveness and the cautions of building trust. Taking the form of journal entries, her story will delight the imaginations of readers captivated by a time and place far distant from our current world. Her timeless themes, however, will challenge our prejudices today as we, along with her characters, are forced to ask ourselves, “What is the hardest thing to do?”

When I received this novel in the mail after winning it through LibraryThing's early reviewer's program, I was a bit worried. I knew that this book was going to be heavily based on religion, which didn't bother me, of course, but I was worried that it would be lacking depth and understanding.

I was very surprised when I started to get into the plot of the novel. The characters, although many, started to develop, and the story-line started to fit among a lot of similar novels in literature, only it was done differently.

The story follows a group of monks, settled in their lives, and beginning lent with a new abbot. All seems to be going according to plan, and, honestly, in an abbey, what else really can go amiss?

Then, a prior comes to their door, knocking, searching for hope and charity.

Only this prior is from another abbey, an abbey now infamous as the home of scoundrels and sinners. Needless to say, he is not welcome.

However, through the course of the novel, forgiveness is given, even when none thought it possible.

My only complaint is the author sometimes lost her grip with the 14th century language, but it wasn't anything that tripped me up.

A beautiful, masterful story, made so with the classic act of forgiveness shown under new light.

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