This debut historical novel portrays the lives of three women living in 17th-century Bavaria and the conflict that arises when the king of Sweden’s forces invade their state during the Thirty Years’ War.
Elphie and Marien are two young women who share an unbreakable friendship despite their very different backgrounds. Elphie, the daughter of peasants, is Marien’s servant and helps her own father farm in the village of Kallmunz. Marien is a member of the “lesser nobility”—her mother, Lilli, is the Baroness of Kallmunz and her maternal grandfather, an alumnus of the duke’s entourage of loyalists. In 1630, Marien and her family learn, while on a trip to the city of Regensburg, that the duke has requested the assistance of Kallmunz to strengthen his army against Swedish forces. The devastating effects of the Thirty Years’ War between the major powers of Europe spur huge changes in their community, and the lives of Elphie, Marien, and their families become complicated and strained. Pilkington focuses on the day-to-day activities and innermost thoughts of each of the characters, crafting an intimate, interconnected portrait of life in Bavaria during the late medieval period. Rich details, such as the farming practices of Elphie and her father, the muddy streets of the village during early spring days, and Lilli’s grand view of the lands from her fortress wall, vividly depict the human aspect of the Middle Ages that often gets lost in textbooks. The author also creates rounded, complex characters by juxtaposing their philosophical introspection against their rigid place in feudalism’s social hierarchy; for example, Elphie “understood that there was a tremendous difference between what she could achieve through her imagination, and the real world that confined her life.” Beautiful photographs, taken by the author during his travels through Germany, accompany the text. This novel will be an accessible read for anyone who wishes to gain a deeper understanding of its medieval setting.
An informative, captivating tale of friendship, family, and virtue.