THE RAMSAY SCALLOP by Frances Temple


Age Range: 11 & up
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 In a remarkable departure, Temple (A Taste of Salt, 1992; Grab Hands and Run, 1993), turns from powerful, harrowing novels of today's Third World to a captivating 13th-century idyll. Elenor dreads the return of her betrothed, Thomas, from a crusade; remembering him as an arrogant tease, she fears losing her autonomy and even (like her mother) her life, in childbirth. She confides her distress in Father Gregory, who also hears Thomas's confession when he comes home deeply troubled by a mission whose horrors have destroyed his ideals and having no wish to wed ``The Brat'' to further his father's territorial schemes. Wisely, the old priest sets a penance for both: a celibate pilgrimage to Santiago, in Spain. During the long journey from England the two befriend a series of other pilgrims with whom they exchange help, songs, and stories (some with a strong resonance with the present); both learn the joy of giving and doing while their distrust is transformed into an affection ``so fine, so frail'' that one friend wants to ``cup his hands around it [like] a tinder spark, to give it every chance''; and then a deep tenderness, warmed by the passion to come. Like Marchette Chute's, this is an innocent wayfaring; no lusty Wife of Bath or vicious Pardoner mars the pair's discovery of their fellow humans' rich variety (including an Albigensian heretic and a Muslim), of each other, and of the changing landscape that Temple describes with singularly unpretentious beauty. Varying her point of view from one sharply realized character to another in lively cinematic vignettes, she recreates medieval Europe at its best--a place where faith, trust, and generosity could be rewarded in kind. A throwback with a contemporary sensibility; an enchanting pilgrimage to self-realization, service, and love. (Fiction. 11+)

Pub Date: April 1st, 1994
ISBN: 0-531-06836-6
Page count: 336pp
Publisher: Orchard
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15th, 1994


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