I was selected to be a tour stop on the “The Oblate’s Confession” virtual book tour through Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours. I received a complimentary ARC copy of “The Oblate’s Confession” direct from the publisher Secant Publishing, in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.
Set in 7th century England, The Oblate’s Confession tells the story of Winwaed, a boy who – in a practice common at the time – is donated by his father to a local monastery. In a countryside wracked by plague and war, the child comes to serve as a regular messenger between the monastery and a hermit living on a nearby mountain. Missing his father, he finds a surrogate in the hermit, an old man who teaches him woodcraft, the practice of contemplative prayer, and, ultimately, the true meaning of fatherhood. When the boy’s natural father visits the monastery and asks him to pray for the death of his enemy – an enemy who turns out to be the child’s monastic superior – the boy’s life is thrown into turmoil. It is the struggle Winawed undergoes to answer the questions – Who is my father? Whom am I to obey? – that animates, and finally necessitates, The Oblate’s Confession.
While entirely a work of fiction, the novel’s background is historically accurate: all the kings and queens named really lived, all the political divisions and rivalries actually existed, and each of the plagues that visit the author’s imagined monastery did in fact ravage that long-ago world. In the midst of a tale that touches the human in all of us, readers will find themselves treated to a history of the “Dark Ages” unlike anything available today outside of textbooks and original source material.
William Peak spent ten years researching and writing The Oblate’s Confession, his debut novel. Based upon the work of one of the great (if less well known) figures of Western European history, the Venerable Bede, Peak’s book is meant to reawaken an interest in that lost and mysterious period of time sometimes called “The Dark Ages.”
Peak received his baccalaureate degree from Washington & Lee University and his master’s from the creative writing program at Hollins University. He works for the Talbot County Free Library on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. Thanks to the column he writes for The Star Democrat about life at the library (archived at http://www.tcfl.org/peak), Peak is regularly greeted on the streets of Easton: “Hey, library guy!” In his free time he likes to fish and bird and write long love letters to his wife Melissa.
If you were going to ask me what first percolated an interest to read a densely researched novel about a 7th Centurion monk, I might not be able to fully address the enquiry as whilst I was contemplating hosting this particular novel and author, I had stumbled across another religious historical fiction by way of Taking the Cross by Charles Gibson. Even before my review on behalf of that particular story out of the Crusades, I started to wonder if perhaps I ought to read both: separated only by a few months, and hosted by two different blog tours!
I am a bit of a paradoxical reader as there are moments where I have the inclination to delve into topical research with centuries I barely know a whisper of a breath about and/or I happily take up the challenge to read a well-researched tome of a novel which has a righted place at a University library due to the efforts on behalf of the writer to clarify it’s contents to layreaders who are keenly interested but not as well versed as the one who penned the story! In this way, my best way to explain my interest in The Oblate’s Confession is simply to say, when I read Illuminations by Mary Sharratt (in 2013) I started to gather a prospect of seeking out other stories of cloistered life.
I even elected to broach this particular vein of thought with Mr. Peak in our conversation, as I was curious if others had felt as inclined as I did to understand what might be challenging at first to accept but where enlightenment might touch you as you walk through the text itself. I felt quite inspired about the subject within the novel, even prior to fully appreciating reading it as I wanted to give enough time to Mr. Peak to collect his thoughts on the questions I was asking of him. When I post my book review, I’ll share the interview he gave by radio that gave me the groundwork knowledge of where most of my own enquiries came to light.
I hope his dedication to publishing an enriched historical narrative will find an open-mind in the reader who likes to take on thought-provoking stories whilst immersed in the historical past! As much as I felt quite happy to notice in the author’s acknowledgement sections, he mentioned one of my favourite monks as being part of his own inspiration: Thich Nhat Hanh! Read More