The extraordinary new novel from David Flusfeder. John the Pupil is a medieval road movie, Umberto Eco seen through the eyes of Quentin Tarantino, recounting the journey taken from Oxford to Viterbo in 1267 by John and his two companions, at the behest of the friar and magus Roger Bacon, carrying a secret burden to His Holiness Clement IV. As well as having to fight off ambushes from thieves hungry for the thing of power they are carrying, the holy trio are tried and tempted by all sorts of sins: Ambition, pride, lust - and by the sheer hell and heaven of medieval life.
Erudite and earthy, horrifying, comic, humane, David Flusfeder's extraordinary book reveals to the listener a world very different and all too like the one we live in now.
This was a good book. It's sort of a road trip book, but on foot and in medieval times. The glimpse of everyday life then was interesting, the physical movement of the characters from place to place means that we get views of different places but are never too bogged down in history and detail. We see the world through the eyes of our medieval monk protagonists rather than through the eyes of 21st century observers, something I think that works well to put the listener in the world of the book.
I particularly enjoyed the regular recitations of biographical information of the life of the Saint who had their feast day that day.
The narrator grew on me, at first I was disappointed that the tone seemed to lack energy but actually I feel that his choice of tone really shaped my view of the main character as this calm and quietly intelligent young monk who seems to take everything in his stride. In fact, it ended up one of my favourite aspects of the book.