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The White Cross by Richard Masefield

The White Cross

by Richard Masefield

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Yes, the Third Crusade is a big part of this story, but the real protagonists are Sir Garon, a Crusader knight, and his wife, Elise, left behind at Garon's manor, not King Richard. I was nearly put off the story by the first words in the prologue--a profanity, but am glad I did read the novel to the end. We experience the Crusade from the declaring of it, through the Crusade itself with its battles and atrocities, and what happens afterwards to the young couple.

Sir Garon tells the main story as he is reflecting on his life and what a botch he might have made so far, on his journey returning home. and we see how he is affected--first warped by his father's words, while still a child, then shaken by the events taking place in the Crusade and his part in them. He comes to see that this whole Crusade has been a mistake--the taking of innocent lives--might I say genocide--and still the objective is not reached. Elise, in the meantime, has to cope with running the estate and trying to avoid unwelcome attentions. Learning from their experiences, they both grow into better people. To me, that was the point of the novel: admitting one's mistakes and learning from them.

We get a different picture of Richard than ever before--not admirable or heroic, but arrogant, a bully, manipulative, vainglorious. He's not the supreme villain of the piece but still totally unworthy of emulation. It was difficult to get used to the different voices in the narrative and sometimes they changed abruptly; different typefaces were used for the main subplots: Garon's and Elise's each in first person--hers often in colored text to mark present tense so we see her feelings in "real time", the narrative in 3rd. I couldn't decide if the author's injecting himself into the story towards the end was really imaginative or was "too clever by half". I accept the author's putting profanity in the mouths of soldiers, but not to such an extent and also, not using God's name with body parts as vulgarities. Sex was overdone and to me was often sickening, e.g., Elise's wedding night described in excruciating detail, or mentions of masturbation, given here a cutesy nickname. I would have rated this novel higher had some of these aspects been toned down. The final duel between Garon and Sir Hugh was very well done, almost cinematic in presentation.

Recommended, with reservations. ( )
  janerawoof | Jan 25, 2018 |
This book is not going to be for everyone. It begins with Richard II learning of the death of his father but the book is the tale of two people thrown together in marriage. It is harsh, it is profane and it is at times not easy to read. As we know from history, Richard II, know as the Lionheart spend most of his reign out of England on Crusade. He is not known as a gentle man – he is a man of War and Mr. Masefield portrays him in a very rough and brash way.

The “romance” at the heart of the tale is between Garon and Elise. It is an arranged marriage as most were in this time between the upper classes. Garon is also a man of war and cares little for Elise beyond what she can bring him. Elise is a woman of strength and intelligence and like most women of her ilk she is told she is good for naught but bearing heirs. Oh, the joys of being female in the middle ages!

The White Cross spares no one feelings – the descriptions are realistic and at times stomach turning. The language is vile and the sex is erm, descriptive and plentiful. As I noted – not for everyone. The history is well researched and the characters well developed. Elise and Garon – being the true heroes of the story grow, learn and change which is a revelation. This does not always happen in a book. I just had a hard time with the overwhelming use of language and sex as a crutch to help move the story forward. ( )
  BrokenTeepee | Aug 15, 2016 |
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