Book review Book reviews Non-fiction

#Bookreview LIFE IN MEDIEVAL EUROPE: FACT AND FICTION by Danièle Cybulskie (@penswordbooks) A well-informed resource and a great read #history

Hi all:

I bring you a non-fiction book about a topic we all have read and watched films and series about.

Life in Medieval Europe: Fact and Fiction by Danièle Cybulskie

Life in Medieval Europe: Fact and Fiction by Danièle Cybulskie

Have you ever found yourself watching a show or reading a novel and wondering what life was really like in the Middle Ages? What did people actually eat? Were they really filthy? And did they ever get to marry for love? In Medieval Europe in Fact and Fiction, you ll find fast and fun answers to all your secret questions, from eating and drinking to sex and love. Find out whether people bathed, what they did when they got sick, and what actually happened to people accused of crimes. Learn about medieval table manners, tournaments, and toothpaste, and find out if people really did poop in the moat.

Author Danièle Cybulskie

About the author:

Danièle Cybulskie has been researching and writing about the Middle Ages for over a decade. She is the author of The Five-Minute Medievalist and is a featured writer at A former college professor and specialist in medieval literature and Renaissance drama, her work has been published across international magazines, spanning topics from The Hundred Years’ War to Roman togas. Her mission is to make history fun, entertaining, and engaging, as well as to draw attention to our shared human nature across the centuries.

My review:

I thank Rosie Croft from Pen & Sword for providing me an ARC paperback copy of this non-fiction book that I freely chose to review.

We all have some image in our minds of the Middle Ages. We’ve read novels and/or historical texts, watched movies and TV series, visited castles, churches and cathedrals of the period, and imagined what it must have been like. Images of a king sitting at his throne, knights fighting in tournaments, princesses being courted, minstrels, big banquets, mixed with the Black Death, dirt, ignorance, religious intransigence, torture and violence. It can be difficult to disentangle truth from fiction, but the author of this book, Danièle Cybulskie, does a great job of covering a wide range of topics and dispelling many of the myths and misconceptions about the era within a fairly small volume.

The book is divided into seven chapters: A dirty little secret (about hygiene, cleanliness, and the disposal of waste); Farming, fasting, feasting (about food, diets, drinks…); the Art of love (sex, marriage, LGBTQIA, contraceptives, childhood); Nasty and brutish (about battles, combats, the justice system, torture, weapons, slavery…); the Age of faith (about religious belief, pilgrimages, convents and monasteries, Christianity and other religions); In Sickness and in health (about doctors, midwives and healers, treatments [more or less scientific], women’s medicine, Black Death…), and Couture, competition, and courtly love (about people’s clothing, entertainment, sports, games, reading materials…). The author also includes ‘a final word’ where she reminds us of how varied the life of the people in that era would have been (after all, it was a very long period, over a thousand years), and encourages us to think of them as people in their own right, as varied, individual and interesting as we are.

The text also includes a set of images, colour photographs of locations, objects, and manuscripts (many from the British Library, gorgeous), a bibliography (books, articles, and websites), a section of notes with details about the sources of information the author has used for each chapter, an index, and her personal acknowledgements.

This is an easy book to read from cover to cover, and can also be used as a general resource, to dip in and out of, for people interested in the period. It offers a good overview and plenty of information for the casual reader. I don’t think experts will find anything new here, but it is a solid entry level volume for those looking for an introduction to the history of the period, and it offers advice on other resources for those who might want to study any of the topics covered in more detail. I was particularly intrigued by the mention of the medical treatments and treatises in use, and enjoyed learning about a society that was far more varied and complex than we generally give it credit for.

Here a brief quote from the chapter on the age of faith, commenting on the role of convents on some women’s lives.

Convents were places in which women’s learning was encouraged too, so that they could better understand holy texts. For many women who did not wish for a life of marriage and children, convents were a sanctuary in which they could spend their days learning and discussing theology… For these women, many of whom would have been literate, having lifelong access to a convent’s library must’ve seemed a heavenly option, indeed. (80-1)

In sum, this is a great book for people interested in Medieval Europe who are not looking for a historical text full of dates, battles, and royal dynasties, but rather want to get a sense of what everyday life would have been like. A good resource for writers, amateur historians looking for further information, and a gift for those who enjoy a balanced and well-informed account of a historical period most of us don’t know as well as we think.

Thanks to Rosie Croft, Pen & Sword, and the author, thanks to all of you for writing, and remember to keep safe, and like, share, and click if you find it interesting. Keep smiling and take care.

Book review Book reviews Rosie's Book Review Team

#TuesdayBookBlog #RBRT BLOOD ROSE ANGEL by Liza Perrat (@LizaPerrat) The Black Death, midwifery and it was hard to be a woman in XIV century France. Highly recommended #Bookreview

Hi all:

Today I bring you a treat. This is a book by an author I discovered thanks to Rosie’s Book Review Team and I’ve become a big fan.

Blood Rose Angel by Liza Perrat
Blood Rose Angel by Liza Perrat

Blood Rose Angel by Liza Perrat

  1. A bone-sculpted angel and the woman who wears it––heretic, Devil’s servant, saint.

Midwife Héloïse has always known that her bastard status threatens her standing in the French village of Lucie-sur-Vionne. Yet her midwifery and healing skills have gained the people’s respect, and she has won the heart of the handsome Raoul Stonemason. The future looks hopeful. Until the Black Death sweeps into France.

Terrified that Héloïse will bring the pestilence into their cottage, Raoul forbids her to treat its victims. Amidst the grief and hysteria, the villagers searching for a scapegoat, Héloïse must choose: preserve her marriage, or honour the oath she swore on her dead mother’s soul? And even as she places her faith in the protective powers of her angel talisman, she must prove she’s no Devil’s servant, her talisman no evil charm.

Héloïse, with all her tragedies and triumphs, celebrates the birth of modern medicine, midwifery and thinking in late medieval times.

Editorial Reviews


Longlisted in MsLexia Women’s Novel Competition, 2015

Blood Rose Angel, from the spellbinding The Bone Angel series, tells a story of continuing family traditions, friendships overcoming adversity, and how good and evil are too often bestowed on fellow humans in the name of faith–Zoe Saadia, author of  ‘The Rise of the Aztecs’ and ‘The Peacemaker’ series

Medicine, religion, and love intertwine in this captivating, richly-detailed portrait of a young woman’s search for identity as the Black Death makes its first inroads into Europe. Liza Perrat uses her training as a midwife and her experiences living in a French village to create a compelling and unforgettable heroine determined to heal the sick in a world still ruled by superstition–C. P. Lesley, author of The Golden Lynx and The Winged Horse

Liza Perrat’s writing is a fully immersive experience–Claire Whatley, reader and author

The next best thing to time travel … brings us to the depths of despair and raises us to the heights of elation–Tricia Gilbey, reader and author

A great sense of place and time–Lucy Pitts

The balance between the darkness and the light makes this book so wonderful … an emotional reading experience. Sadness at the death of a child, joy of a birth and anger at the injustice towards women. I was deeply moved … — Magdalena(book blogger)

I could not tear myself away … Liza Perrat has now joined the ranks of my favorite authors.
The first few pages hook you and never let up. I tore through this book so quickly I was sad when it ended. Yes … that enjoyable — Melinda(book blogger)

For me Heloise represents those forgotten women, intelligent, brave and indomitable who have formed the heart and soul of every town and village throughout history.Wonderful — Chris Curran, author of Mindsight.

Liza Perrat paints an enthralling picture of the ignorance and superstition that allowed the plague to spread inexorably and unchecked. The author is particularly gifted at transporting you to the historical setting and everyday detail of people’s lives — Vanessa Couchman, author of The House at Zaronza.

One of those books that once started was impossible to put down and yet at the same time one of those novels that you didn’t want to pick up knowing that every page read was a page closer to having to say goodbye to some wonderful characters not to mention the end of an exceptional trilogy — TracyTerry (book blogger).

Héloïse is a strong and inspiring main character; an amazing woman to guide you to a very dark chapter in history — Maryline(book blogger).

I loved Heloise’s character … a strong woman … sure of her powers of healing. She oozes confidence through most of the book. I also liked how the author included a lot on the methods that Heloise would have used as a midwife during the time period– Meg, ABookish Affair.

Liza Perrat … has quickly become one of my favourite authors. In her new sweeping tale, BloodRose Angel, emotions overwhelmed me right from the start and kept me on the edge of my seat with my heart in my throat right through to the last page, when I sat there stunned that it was all over. It was like leaving a best friend behind — Cindy,(Book Blogger).

… the author’s medical background, her artistic brush strokes in language, and the so deftly integrated literary devices elevate this novel to a very fine work of historical (and literary quality) fiction … I was sad when the story ended —will particularly miss Midwife Heloise. Though well suited to the story path,the climax and ending of BLOOD ROSE ANGEL did suggest a possible sequel…. We can hope! … BLOOD ROSE ANGEL is a page-turner, but written with a nice balance of action and description — Bernice L. Rocque, Author of Until the Robin Walkson Snow.

With flawless and progressive characterization and each characters emoting to dot, the story was simply magnetic. I had to finish the book off! — Shree,Book Blogger

Author Liza Perrat
Author Liza Perrat

About the Author

Liza grew up in Wollongong, Australia, where she worked as a general nurse and midwife for fifteen years. When she met her French husband on a Bangkok bus, she moved to France, where she has been living with her family for over twenty years. She works part-time as a French-English medical translator, and as a novelist. Since completing a creative writing course twelve years ago, several of her short stories have won awards, notably, the Writers Bureau annual competition of 2004 and her stories have been published widely in anthologies and small press magazines. Her articles on French culture and tradition have been published in international magazines such as France Magazine, France Today and The Good Life France. Spirit of Lost Angels is the first in her French historical trilogy, The Bone Angel Series. The second – Wolfsangel – was published in October 2013, and the third, Blood Rose Angel, was published in November 2015. She is a founding member of the author collective, Triskele Books and reviews books for BookMuse.

Links: Email Newsletter sign-up for FREE short story, Ill-fated Rose, that inspired The Bone Angel series:




Twitter: @LizaPerrat


My review:

I write this review as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team (author, check here if you are interested in getting your book reviewed) and thank her and the author for this opportunity.

This is the third novel I have read in the series The Bone Angel and the fourth novel by Liza Perrat. (You can check my reviews of Spirit of Lost Angel here, Wolfsangel here and The Silent Kookaburra here.) You might have guessed by now that I enjoy her books. Having read The Silent Kookaburra first, for quite a while I thought that was my favourite of the author’s novels (and don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the others) but now, I’m not so sure.

We are in Lucie-sur-Vionne, France, 1348. The whole series is set in the same location and follows the characters of the female line of a family who are linked by their midwifery skills (or wish to care for others) and by the passing of a talisman, the bone angel of the title. All the women of the series feel a strange connection to this angel (whose story/legend we hear, first- hand, in this book) and to each other, although this novel is, so far, the one set further back in the past, and at a very momentous time (like all the others). The Black Death decimated a large part of the world population and this novel offers us the perspective of the people who lived through it and survived to tell the tale.

The story is narrated, mostly in the first person, by midwife Héloïse, whose birth was problematic (her mother, Ava, a midwife herself, died before she was born and her aunt, Isa, extracted her from the womb) and due to the superstitions of the time, she was shunned and taunted as a child (she was not only a bastard, as her father was unknown, but she was also ‘unborn’). She always felt guilty for her mother’s death and resisted becoming a midwife due to that. But, eventually, she heeded her calling, learned from her aunt, and has become loved and appreciated by most people (apart from a few villagers who blame her for unlucky events). Unfortunately, as human nature dictates, when the epidemic reaches the village (at the same time as her husband, a stonemason who had been working in Florence) and people start dying, everybody looks for someone to blame, be it cats, the Jews, the lepers, or… There are a few chapters told from other characters’ point of view, only to complete the picture when Heloise is otherwise engaged (I’m trying not to give any spoilers here).

Héloïse is a strong-willed woman, who struggles between trying to fulfill her vocation (what she sees as her mission no matter how little recompense he gets for it) and being a dutiful wife who puts her husband and family above everything else. She is a compelling character and one that rings true and whose situation is ever relevant, especially to women who always have to try and find a balance between career and family life. She is a worthy heroine, who cares for people, who tries to do the right thing, even if it might cost her, who perseveres and remains faithful to her ideas, who doubts and questions acknowledged ‘truths’, and who is a natural leader. The rest of the characters, both, villagers and nobles, good and nasty, are all well-defined and recognisable, although perhaps the female characters are drawn in more detail than the males (although midwifery and birthing was women’s business at the time, so it is understandable), and I must say I felt like a member of her extended family by the end of the book.

The novel’s plot is fascinating and as good as any historical fiction I have read. History and fiction blend seamlessly to create a story that is gripping, emotionally satisfying, and informative. Even when we might guess some of the twists and turns, they are well-resolved, and the ending is satisfying. (I have read some reviews that mention it is a bit rushed. It is true that it all comes together at a faster pace than the rest of the novel, but my suspicion is that readers didn’t want the story to end. I know that was my case).  The life of the villagers is well observed, as is the relationship between the different classes, the politics of the era, the role of religion, the power held by nobles and the church, the hypocrisy, superstition, and prejudice, and the social mores and roles of the different genders. The descriptions of the houses, clothing, medical and midwifery procedures, and the everyday life are detailed enough to make us feel immersed in the era without slowing down the plot, that is a page turner in its own right. I particularly enjoyed the sense of community (strongly dominated by women) and the optimism that permeates the novel, showing the strength of the human spirit even in the hardest of circumstances. The author includes a glossary at the end that explains the words no longer in use that appear in the novel and also provides background information on the Black Death and the historical figures that grace its pages. Although it is evident that the book involved a great deal of research, this is flawlessly weaved into the story and add to the feeling of authenticity.

This novel, like the rest of the series, can be read as a stand-alone, although I doubt that anybody reading it will not want to read the rest.

Another great novel by Liza Perrat and one of my favourites. I will not forget it in a hurry and I hope to keep reading more novels by the author. I recommend it to readers of historical fiction, especially those interested in the era, the Black Death, and medical techniques of the time, readers of women’s fiction, and anybody looking for great characters and a writer to follow.

Thanks to Rosie for organising and running her great team, thanks to the author, and thanks to all of you for reading, sharing, commenting, clicking and, don’t forget to REVIEW any books you read. ♥


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