Some Things Don’t Change

The First of the Sharan Newman’s Catherine LeVendeur Mystery Series

It wasn’t just the unwelcome homecoming they had received that bothered her.  That was certainly upsetting… It was more everything around them.  The whole world was unsettled.  People were leaving for an expedition to the Holy Land knowing no more than they should face the east, relying on faith to get them there and back safely.  Others were turning completely from all they had been taught, believing instead in new gods invented by deluded fools.  Starvation threatened all around them from the barren fields and ignorant preachers were there to addle the minds of those already weakened by hunger.  Bands of ruffians were attacking…  The order of the universe had been rearranged.  Perhaps these are the end times, she thought.

This passage is from Sharan Newman’s book, To Wear The White Cloak, the seventh of the ten books in her Catherine LeVendeur Mystery series.  Although the author is still writing and is from Oregon, these books are not about the here and now.  The delusion, the starvation, the bands of ruffians she speaks about are integral to twelfth century Paris  — so far off in time and distance from our own lives, and yet… with so many similarities.

The Seventh of Sharan Newman’s Catherine LeVendeur Mystery Series

I’ve read all ten books in the series which were published between 1993 and 2004 and am now re-reading them — not in any order but just as I rediscover them on my bookshelves.  Granted, they are fiction but I do factor in the fact that Sharan Newman is a medieval historian and author. She took her Master’s degree in Medieval Literature at Michigan State University and then did her doctoral work at the University of California at Santa Barbara in Medieval Studies, specializing in twelfth-century France. She is a member of the Medieval Academy and the Medieval Association of the Pacific.  And mostly, I count that she chose not to teach in the traditional sense, but to write novels set in the middle ages.  She gets high marks from me for that choice! What better way to pass on her knowledge!

As I read. I am at once struck by how far we’ve come in some areas and by how little we’ve gained in others.  I wonder if we humans actually have the capacity to interact with one another successfully over the long term.  Have we made strides in that arena over the last thousand years?  And yet, the books are not depressing.  If you have yet to discover them, I recommend you start with the first one, Death Comes In Epiphany.  I can almost guarantee that you’ll find it a learning experience and a delight!

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