PESTILENCE by Wiliam Owen Roberts


Email this review


The crowded, tortured canvasses of Hieronymous Bosch are perhaps the closest equivalents to this prize-winning 1988 Welsh novel: a pungent vision of medieval life in Europe and Great Britain during the 14th century, when the Black Plague threatened to literally destroy Western civilization. `Pestilence` tells two parallel stories, each haunted by the specter of approaching catastrophe: there’s that of the Welsh township of Dolbenmaen, riddled with poverty, lust, and hysterical religiosity; and the contrasting tale of young Egyptian Salah Ibn al Khatib, who travels north by ship in a constantly frustrated quest to avenge a wrong committed against his family by the haughty King of France. Roberts's taut, often sickeningly violent narrative displays an imposing enormity of sedulously mastered information about late-medieval religion, medicine, law, and society, and his artfully shaped plot brings its separate stories together, with a savage thrust of irony, at the mockingly `hopeful` visionary conclusion. Unusually intelligent and memorable.

Pub Date: April 3rd, 2000
ISBN: 1-85411-198-1
Page count: 214pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 2000