Friday, January 2, 2015

Book Review: "The Oblate's Confession" by William Peak (HFVB)

Before we start, let's turn to handy dandy Wikipedia to get the actual definition of Oblate, shall we?

"Oblates are individuals, either laypersons or clergy, normally living in general society, who, while not professed monks or nuns, have individually affiliated themselves with a monastic community of their choice. They make a formal, private promise (annually renewable or for life, depending on the monastery with which they are affiliated) to follow the Rule of the Order in their private life as closely as their individual circumstances and prior commitments permit. Such oblates do not constitute a separate religious order as such, but are considered an extended part of the monastic community."

Basically that's what we're working with here. Our narrator, Winawed, is "gifted" to a monastery at a place called Redstone by his father, in thanks for a favorable result in battle. He goes at a very young age and has almost no recollection of his life outside the monastery. 

There are a couple of interesting things about this monastery. The monks rarely talk, they communicate with somewhat elaborate hand signals. When they are talking, they are really chanting and are almost exclusively doing it at prayers. Another thing that I thought was interesting was that the monastery is very insulated. I guess I always supposed that almost all monasterys did work with the community they were in, outreach or charitable work or something. These monks seemed to go out of their way to really avoid the people in the area.

Anyway, so this is where our narrator spends his whole life. He is with the monastery through all kinds of ups and downs, including at least 2 bouts of plague, almost starving a few times and barely escaping a very serious explosion.

His life takes a bit of a turn when his father, who he doesn't know, comes to visit him at the monastery. He asks something of the young boy that causes him all kinds of inner turmoil and that he reflects on at length throughout his confession. He was really upset by it, so you kind of think he did something insanely bad, like setting an orphanage on fire. It's not that bad.I mean, it's not nice, but it's not orphanage arson bad.

My one criticism of this book is that it would have been nice to have a glossary of terms, or something of the like. There is a very helpful map, and a list of characters. However it would have been nice to have something that translated some of the other Latin words that were used around the monastery.

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.

About the Author
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, Peak is regularly greeted on the streets of Easton: “Hey, library guy!”

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The Oblate’s Confession Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, December 1
Review at Broken Teepee
Tuesday, December 2
Spotlight & Giveaway at Passages to the Past
Wednesday, December 3
Review at Back Porchervations
Review at A Fantastical Librarian
Thursday, December 4
Spotlight at What Is That Book About
Friday, December 5
Interview at Back Porchervations
Monday, December 8
Review at A Book Geek
Tuesday, December 9
Review at The Writing Desk
Spotlight at Historical Tapestry
Thursday, December 11
Interview at Forever Ashley
Monday, December 15
Review at Flashlight Commentary
Tuesday, December 16
Spotlight at Bibliophilic Book Blog
Thursday, December 18
Review at 100 Pages a Day…Stephanie’s Book Reviews
Guest Post at Books and Benches
Friday, December 19
Review at Book Nerd
Review at bookramblings
Monday, December 22
Spotlight at Let Them Read Books
Tuesday, December 23
Review at Just One More Chapter
Wednesday, December 24
Review at With Her Nose Stuck in a Book
Monday, December 29
Review at The Never-Ending Book
Tuesday, December 30
Spotlight at Historical Fiction Connection
Friday, January 2
Review at Library Educated
Monday, January 5
Review & Interview at Words and Peace
Tuesday, January 6
Spotlight at CelticLady’s Reviews
Wednesday, January 7
Review at A Bibliotaph’s Reviews
Thursday, January 8
Review at Impressions in Ink
Friday, January 9
Review at The True Book Addict
Review & Interview at Jorie Loves a Story

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