John the Pupil
In 1217, friar and magus Roger Bacon, an inventor and scientist, is teacher to a young man named John at a Franciscan monastery outside Oxford, England. Bacon instructs John to deliver his major written book, along with scientific instruments he developed, to the Pope in Viterbo, Italy. Two companions accompany John: Brother Andrew, who is handsome and well liked, and Brother Bernard, a big man with a weakness for alcohol. Neither man knows the true purpose of the trip, thinking they are on a pilgrimage. They travel through Europe preaching while begging for food and lodging. They meet thieves along the way who try to steal the book and instruments from them, thinking they are valuable. Observing life outside the monastery, they face temptation from women and alcohol on their trip south.
One problem with the book is the many references to the various saints’ days, with a brief description of how these people became saints. These intermissions distract from the novel and its flow. The story itself has a few exciting episodes, but is mostly a recounting of Franciscan beliefs regarding living a good life and staying away from temptations.
Because of the slow pace, this book may not be for everyone. The chronicle of John’s journey is presented in literary fashion and, because of the author’s extensive research, can provide the reader with insight into life in the Middle Ages.
Early Medieval (to 1337)