BELOW THE SALT by Thomas B. Costain


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A story within a story -- this benefits not a whit by the artificial frame. For the integral part is a superb piece of historical and period recreation, with full panoply of 12th century England and parts of the Continent, and a convincing picture of the events and personalities that led up to the Magna Charta and Runnymede. Too bad Costain wasn't satisfied with what he had here, and felt it must be set in a modern frame, with a fantasy aspect, as an ageing Senator takes it upon himself to prove to John Foraday, grandson of a woman he had always loved, that he lived his life once before some eight hundred years ago- and that every phase of the adventures he recounts was drawn from the adventures that were his own. There was the matter of name- for the Senator is one Richard O'Rawn; and the story within the story deals with another Richard of Rawan, impoverished, orphaned son of Edward, despoiled of his estate by the Normans; and with his comrade in arms and adventures, Tostig. Young Richard is taken into the household of the Marshall of England, under the wicked John, usurper some felt after the death of Richard Coeur de Lion. There he grows to knighthood, and he and Tostig set forth to earn their fortunes on the Continent- and to carry a warning to young Arthur of Brittany, rightful heir- and to his fiery sister, Eleanor. From there on it is a tale of chivalry and derring-do, of mad adventure and misadventure, and of the slow growth of social unrest and rebellion in England which culminated finally in Runnymede.... At the close, the story switches back to John and the old Senator, to another Eleanor, another world, another time, another love. One could eliminate this wholly, and find a sounder story without it.

Pub Date: Sept. 20th, 1957
Publisher: Doubleday