The author brings out a book set in Europe during the early 13th century. Her painstaking research into material available from sources based on actual writings of the pertinent characters is quite evident. The period is shortly before the time of the Italian Renaissance and heralds later events that gave rise to major art, sculpture and literary breakthroughs. It was a period that still promoted crusades attempting to capture Jerusalem, opening it for journeys, thereby many worshipers. In spite of the invasions Christians, Muslims and Jews lived side by side all over southern Europe freely intermingling with each other while avoiding the wars going on around them.
Michael Scot, a young monk, has the fortuitous luck to meet Charles II who is the Holy Roman Emperor while both are young men. Michael has become interested in translating the work of Aristotle and Charles charges him with doing these translations a full-time job. The thought is to regain via the translations the knowledge lost during the centuries since Aristotle lived. Michael travels and works in centers located in both Italy and Spain. His findings include information that gives rise to advancements in medicine among other disciplines that move these forward.
Unfortunately during his work Michael incurs the ire of some clerics that feel that translations taken from Arabic are blasphemous and should not be used in full-time publication of the work. Charles does continue to protect Michael and the work he is doing which allow publication and circulation of his findings after his death. This is a novel involving people that lived and worked in, period. The author has put words in the mouths of the individuals described. There is, of course, no way to divine actual conversations, but these are set up so that they reflect Mac Donald’s efforts to tell the story of a man that actually lived, worked and contributed to the advancement of knowledge during his lifetime.
The principal persona are as fleshed out as is possible at this later date. I’m sure that we will see more novels from Elizabeth Mac Donald in the future, and if they are set in the past, will show as much actual research as this one did.
9/19 Paul Lane
A MATTER OF INTERPRETATION by Elizabeth Mac Donald. Fairlight Books (September 5, 2019). ISBN 978-1912054701. 323p.