Conrad Monk and the Great Heathen Army

Written by Edoardo Albert
Review by Ann Northfield

Following in the tradition of unreliable and unpleasant narrators such as Flashman, the main character, the Conrad of the title, is a thoroughly unashamedly self-serving and selfish man. To a reader accustomed to more heroic characters, or at least those who try to give a good impression of themselves and a positive spin on their actions, Conrad is certainly unusual.

The reader expects him to reveal a nicer side at the last minute, particularly in his treatment of his sidekick, the sweet, innocent and very naïve Brother Odo who accompanies Conrad through the trials and tribulations of being captured by the Danes, among other adventures.

It doesn’t happen. Although a monk, Conrad makes no attempt to follow the precepts of religion, although he is not averse to “becoming” a bishop if the Lord gives him an opportunity to take advantage of.

This is a picaresque romp through the Dane-ravished countryside and is entertaining, memorable and often very funny. Despite the tongue-in-cheek nature of the story at times, the author conveys the atmosphere and dangers of the time, and the book is true to the historical background in many ways. A pleasant and amusing alternative to the more usual serious weighty historical epics written about this era.