SUMMARY – The 10-second review
Historic – Atmospheric – Medieval France – Convent life – Feminist slant.
Murder in the Cloister is the first Tania Bayard novel I’ve read and overall, I was delighted with it.
Overall. Some things I loved, some a bit less, so I hesitated as to whether this is a 4-star or a 3-star read.
What I loved about Murder in the Cloister
- The setting in medieval France, 1399, and the descriptions of Paris and Poissy Collegiate Church and its convent. I felt very immersed in the landscapes and locations depicted.
- The feminist slant and the fact that the main character is based on a woman who really existed; a woman who wrote for a living and was employed by King Charles VI. I loved learning about Christine de Pizan, both imaginatively through the novel and because I was inspired to google more information about her.
- The medieval convent setting. I love stories set in convents in the distant past, at a time when women had so little power in business and public life, with the notable exception of women running and living in convents. Convents were busy, complex enterprises employing entire communities. The descriptions of the nuns’ choir also made me want to listen to contemporary music. I felt I could almost hear their voices, ethereal and beautiful.
- The characters, especially the women. This book really celebrates women. Yay! The different characters were distinctively drawn. I enjoyed reading about Christine, Marion, the Prioress, Juliana. By contrast, the men failed to impress. However, I think there’s more to Henri, in particular, that I might have missed because of not having read the previous novels in the series.
What I liked less
The murder mystery and the theme of sorcery. As a murder mystery, Murder in the Cloister didn’t quite do it for me. I was intrigued, but the reveal was a bit rushed and unsatisfying. The theme of sorcery felt a bit thrown in because that’s what’s expected in this period, and to satisfy some plot details, but it felt tagged on rather than particularly well integrated into the story.
Despite my misgivings, the aspects I enjoyed were enough to leave me wanting more. This was one of those books where the murder is secondary to the setting, rather than the reverse, and that’s OK with me. It’s a historical mystery, with emphasis on the historical rather than the mystery. Fine. There are plenty of other books out there that are better mysteries, but not many that bring this period of history, in France, alive in the way this book does. So on balance, I’ll go for 4 stars. And I definitely want to read more of Bayard’s novels.
My thanks to the publisher, author and Netgalley for giving me a free copy of this book. All my reviews are 100% honest and unbiased, regardless of how I acquire the book.
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