Wednesday, April 27, 2011
Book of the Month
THE WHITE COMPANY
By Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
I have an affinity for historical fiction, and that is why I highly enjoyed this book by one of the all time great authors. Known mostly for his Sherlock Holmes books and stories, one of Conan Doyle's personal favorite works was this novel about English longbowmen set during the Hundred Years War. While this book is not a literary masterpiece, it is an entertaining read and an accurate snapshot of a pivotal moment in history as England struggled for supremacy against its sworn enemy- France.
This book has a colorful ensemble of characters that harkens back to 14th Century. It feels part Robin Hood, part Canterbury Tales. Alleyne Edricson is a naive boy of twenty who leaves the abbey where he has been raised to see what awaits in the wider world. He meets up with veteran archer, Sam Aylward who is on a quest to find men for a reformed White Company, while also attempting to secure the great Sir Nigel Loring as the company's commander. The pair then encounter a hugely strong, but kind man, Hordle John, who agrees to accompany them on their journey. Once they reach Sir Nigel's estate, Alleyne becomes Sir Nigel's squire and they set off for France to join the rest of the White Company.
Conan Doyle embroiders the larger adventure with interesting subplots and humorous moments so that there is always something going on. Alleyene's brief love story with Sir Nigel's daughter Maude, and the ill-fated trip to visit the socman of Minstead are highlights among the rest. The White Company eventually reports to Edward the Black Prince and fights in the book's climactic battle at Najera. I refuse to spoil anything, but you will be taken on a great and thrilling ride if you read this book. Also, if you like this genre and these characters, make sure to read Conan Doyle's prequel- Sir Nigel. It's good too.