The Illuminator by Brenda Rickman Vantrease

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It is England, in the late fourteenth century, a time when the whim of a lord or the pleasure of a bishop can seal nearly anyone's fate. The printing press has yet to be invented. Books, written only in Latin or Norman French, are rare and costly, painstakingly lettered and illuminated with exquisite paintings---far beyond the reach of ordinary people.

But there are cracks in the old feudal order---and in the absolute power of the Church. Finn is a master illuminator who works not only for the Church but also, in secret, for the heretical Oxford cleric John Wycliffe. Under the nose of the powerful Abbot of Broomholm, Finn illuminates pages for Wycliffe---an English translation of the Bible, meant to bring the word of God to the masses. And Finn has another secret, one that will lead both himself and his beloved daughter into ever-increasing peril.

Lady Kathryn, the mistress of Blackingham Manor, is a widow who finds herself caught between the King's taxes and the Church's tithes. To protect her sons' inheritance, she strikes a bargain with the abbot---Kathryn will take in the illuminator and his daughter, and gain the monastery's protection. What begins as a hesitant friendship between Finn and Lady Kathryn grows into a passionate alliance that touches off a chain of betrayals, tragedies, and unexpected acts of heroism.

Richly detailed and irresistibly compelling, The Illuminator is a glorious novel of love, art, religion, and treachery at an extraordinary turning point in history.


About Brenda Rickman Vantrease

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BRENDA RICKMAN VANTREASE is a former English teacher and librarian whose bestselling debut, The Illuminator, was translated into over a dozen languages and chosen as a BookSense Reading Group Pick. She lives in Nashville, Tennessee.
Published December 27, 2005 by St. Martin's Press. 428 pages
Genres: History, Literature & Fiction. Fiction

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The premise is intriguing, but Vantrease’s tale has a by-the-numbers feel to it, with set pieces, set characters, and set descriptions (among them detailed views of the sweat-drenched, well-formed bosoms of the local nobility) filling her pages.

Mar 08 2005 | Read Full Review of The Illuminator

Publishers Weekly

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Narrator Jones approaches this mesmerizing tale of medieval England with a dignity more befitting Masterpiece Theater than the muck and violence of a 14th-century feudal society.

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Book Reporter

(The job description of "anchoress" reveals quite a bit about the character of the age.) Julian --- the first woman author to write in the English language --- is a steady, loving presence that counterbalances much of the domestic turmoil in the book.

Jan 22 2011 | Read Full Review of The Illuminator

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