> Bless Their Hearts Mom: History Corner / Book Review: A Burnable Book by Bruce Holsinger
Thursday, April 24, 2014

History Corner / Book Review: A Burnable Book by Bruce Holsinger

Disclosure / Disclaimer: I received this book, free of charge, from William Morrow Publishing, for review purposes on this blog. No other compensation, monetary or in kind, has been received or implied for this post. Nor was I told how to post about it

A Burnable Book  cover


In Chaucer's London, betrayal, murder, royal intrigue, mystery, and dangerous politics swirl around the existence of a prophetic book that foretells the deaths of England's kings. Bruce Holsinger's A Burnable Book is an irresistible historical thriller reminiscent of the classics An Instance of the Fingerpost, The Name of the Rose, and The Crimson Petal and the White.

London, 1385. Surrounded by ruthless courtiers--including his powerful uncle,  John of Gaunt, and Gaunt's artful mistress, Katherine Swynford--England's  young, still untested king, Richard II, is in mortal peril, and the danger is only beginning. Songs are heard across London--catchy verses said to originate from an ancient book that prophesies the end of England's kings--and among the book's predictions is Richard's assassination. Only a few powerful men know that the cryptic lines derive from a "burnable book," a seditious work that threatens the stability of the realm. 

To find the manuscript, wily bureaucrat Geoffrey Chaucer turns to fellow poet John Gower, a professional trader in information with connections high and low. Gower discovers that the book and incriminating evidence about its author have fallen  into the unwitting hands of innocents, who will be drawn into a labyrinthine conspiracy that reaches from the king's court to London's slums and stews--and potentially implicates his own son. As the intrigue deepens, it becomes clear that Gower, a man with secrets of his own, may be the last hope to save a king from a terrible fate.

Medieval scholar Bruce Holsinger draws on his vast knowledge of the period to add colorful, authentic detail--on everything from poetry and bookbinding to court intrigues and brothels--to this highly entertaining and brilliantly constructed epic literary mystery that brings medieval England gloriously to life.


This much is so rich in medieval history and royal court intrigue that is is VERY hard to put down once you start it! But it is not to be a quick read, it is meant to be relished, as the author drops the reader back in time and sets the stage so lovingly and completely, that any infringement of the modern world (like the phone ringing) seems other wordly. This mystery of the book lies at the mystery of who has stolen it and why. What about it, so enthralls people to kill for it's possession? Will it bring down the monarchy? Change world history? The many webbed mystery is quite satisfying when it is all aid out at the end of the book, and I liked how the author had follow up. Sometimes with mysteries, you are left hanging and wondering what happened to the main characters! Using Chaucer as main character is an unique ruse, and one that works very well too! If you love historical fiction, and an intellectual read,  you will adore this book!

About the Author: 

Bruce Holsinger is a prolific and award-winning scholar of the medieval period who teaches at the University of Virginia. His books on medieval culture have won prizes from the Modern Language Association, the Medieval Academy of America, and other scholarly organizations. He is a Guggenheim Fellow and a recipient of research fellowships from the American Council of Learned Societies and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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