I enjoyed reading this wonderful novel set in the early
seventeenth century of the Protectorate rule under Oliver Cromwell in England.
It is fascinating in its detail of the depiction of the lives of ordinary people who lived in Bedford, England and
made their living as bakers, tanners, merchants.
The heroine of the story, Elizabeth Whitbread, is a daughter
of a baker. She is the elder daughter of the family and by arrangement of her father is expected to marry an apprentice tanner from her neighbourhood by the end of the summer.
I loved the spark of romance in this novel regarding
Elizabeth and John, a widower with four children,
the youngest who is a baby.
Elizabeth is obliged to assist by request of a minister to help out the household and the four children, even against John’s wishes. She believes that she is doing her duty and the baby may not otherwise have survived without her assistance. Early before dawn each day she would arise and make her way to the house of the preacher, John, and his four children.
A tinker by trade, John finds the time to often leave Bedford and walk in the surrounding areas to preach.
Eventually Elizabeth and John marry. Elizabeth would often watch John leaving in the mornings, his red hair flaming, carrying his tinker’s bag and picking his way across the fields to another town or place to continue his work of preaching.
Later, in the story Elizabeth regrets that she had ever tried to encourage John to give up his preaching. She realises
that this was his true calling and it had been wrong of her to attempt to encourage him to stay at home. At the time Elizabeth’s wishes for John to place his wife and family before his preaching had placed a strain upon the marriage.
This novel is a story of romance and true beauty, the beauty that is engendered by pursuing a life where worldly concerns cannot intervene or prevent John’s true calling in life. Even when John is made aware that he may be arrested he still will continue to engage in a prayer meeting with local people rather than seek escape across the fields to freedom.
The romance sparkles, the dialogue flows, the story is a page turner and the characters give depth and character to the story.
There is also the beauty of working towards a higher and greater cause which is inspirational to read about.
One of John’s friends, a minister, who would subsequently visit him in
prison, recognised his talent for writing and would encourage him to continue with his writing.
There is the simple life-style and aspirations of Elizabeth and many of the people of the town who have lived under the Puritan rule and the contrasts of life-style which become apparent and which Elizabeth encounters when she visits London on John’s behalf.. and eventually in time there is the restoration of Charles II to the throne when eventually matters improve for John, when the King grants an Indulgence.
This is a lovely book, inspirational and beautiful.
Well worth reading!
This story is loosely based on the true story of John Bunyan, author of “The Pilgrim’s Progress” which he wrote while in prison and the story of his second wife, Elizabeth.