The historical background is deftly drawn, and both protagonists display a quiet heroism. A thought-provoking read which should appeal to both sexes.
There we meet Georgette, a country girl who keeps house for her widowed father and brother Gregor. She also earns a meagre addition to the housekeeping money by looking after the local parish priest, a holy man called Father David who has turned his back on the riches and power of the established Roman Catholic Church.
Father David is the polar opposite of Pere Benedict, the abbot of Blois, who has ambitions to establish himself as a powerful force in the church. When the abbot takes a foundling called Robert under his wing, he decides to mould the lad in his own image, for his own ends.
But soon Robert and Georgette are lured away from both priests by the children’s crusade passing through their town. Their attempts to reach the Holy Land founder in Marseilles but their spiritual journey continues, as they try to reconcile their faith with the horror and injustice they see in the world around them.
There are only three contemporary accounts of the Children’s Crusade and these are barely a paragraph long. Longer studies were written much later, the most authoritative being that of a Cisterian monk called Alberic Of Tross-Fontaines from his opus Chronica Alberici Monachi Trium Fontium. By then oral tradition had developed the event into a legend that bore scant resemblance to the truth and was continuously embellished by historians and storytellers alike.
According to the latest research, there seems to have been two large gatherings of people - most of whom were adults and not children - wandering around the French and German countryside in 1212. The first was in Germany. Led by a charismatic young man called Nikolaus, some 7000 pilgrims crossed the Alps into Genoa where they expected the sea to part and form a road to Jerusalem. The predicted miracle did not take place and the group disbanded. Some pilgrims travelled on to Marseille where they might have been abducted and sold into slavery.
The second movement took place in France and was led by a shepherd boy from Cloyes who claimed that Jesus had given him a letter to pass on to King Philip the Second. His followers reported seeing him work miracles but the French monarch ordered the pilgrims to disband and they obeyed. None of the information that we have about Prophet Stephen mention his plans to conquer Jerusalem.
Wulf draws from both accounts for her book. She tells the story simply and with conviction. This is no swashbuckling epic. You’ll never hear the ring of Christian sword against Muslim scimitar, or witness hundreds of crusaders galloping across desert sand. The violent episodes in the narrative happen off-page, with Georgette and Robert hearing about them rather than witnessing them or being part of them. It is none the less a gripping read. Wulf’s descriptions of the main characters’ spiritual awakening are both accurate and moving, and this is the main strength of the book. This is a story that pushes the envelope and deserves to be a hit!]]>
Crusade tells the story of one of many Children’s Crusade through the eyes of fictional characters Georgette and Robert, two very different young teenagers who are united on a quest to reach the Holy land. Robert is an orphan who was left on the church steps as a baby but he never stole food like the other orphans in his village. As he grows older, it became apparent that he is extraordinarily intelligent and by the time he is five years old he knows all the Latin prayers and hymns by heart. The Church Abbot notices his talent and takes him in as the Abbey’s ward to be taught as his protege student. Georgette is a peasant girl whose mother died in childbirth. Finding her home life dull, she befriends the elderly village priest who teaches her more about her faith. When a young thirteen year old prophet who is no older than herself arrives in Georgette’s village looking for new children to she is drawn to the prospect of seeking glory for God, unlike many of the other children who just want a chance to travel and see the world. Along with her brother, who is known for his fiery temper, she leaves her village and everything she has ever known along to join the Crusade.
Later in the journey, when the Crusade stops at Robert’s abbey to ask for food, Robert joins too. He has become dissatisfied with his life in the Abbey where everything is governed by routine and the Abbot and wants a different life purpose.
The journey is more difficult than expected and the children must face every hardship imaginable from starvation and sickness to death. For months, they must rely on the kindness and goodwill of the inhabitants of passing villages, towns and cities but with thousands of children with empty stomachs, food becomes extremely scarce and Georgette and Robert have no way of knowing when their next meal will be. The things that they had to endure are heart wrenching and emotional to read about because many of the children are very young at only eight. I am glad that the author did not try to shy away from the realities of what the Children’s Crusade would have been like.
They were both really likable and strong characters and my heart went out to them in their struggles as they were very easy to warm and relate to. What I loved most about them was how despite all the terrible things that are happening around them and the realisation that the Crusade isn’t as focused on their holy mission as they first thought, they both remained true to their beliefs and faith.
I really liked how the story was told from the point of view of a boy and a girl, especially as it makes the story more appealing to both genders. It was also really clever how the stories of Georgette and Robert began to come together and entwine towards the end. However, my only disappointment was when the book came to an end when their story together began to pick up. It did pick up all of the loose ends but it also left a lot to the imagination so if the author wanted to, there is room for a sequel.
I learnt a lot about the Children’s Crusade through this fictional retelling of events and found the fate of these children very interesting. I think that it has just the right amount of action and history for younger readers to enjoy the story too and learn more about the Crusades must have been like by following the story of characters near their own age who it is easier to relate to.
Verdict: Linda Press Wulf has created a wonderful and beautifully evocative story based loosely on what little is known about the events of the Children’s Crusade. I really recommend it!]]>
I was particularly interested to read this book as I am yet to have found another work of historical fiction what focuses on the children’s crusade. I have seen others that looks as crusades more generally but I think the children’s crusade is particularly interesting and a topic that can really draw in young adults as they can relate to the people involved in the main story line. I teach High School history so this book is an utter god send for me. It is also good as it is quite broad in its focus covering not just ideas about crusades but also a variety of aspects of medieval life including medicine, home life, towns and villages and the influence of the church more generally.
One aspect the book does really well it that it explores the nature of religion and the diversity of faith and people’ attitudes to other faith. The ideas but forward are still very much relevant to a modern audience and give the reader much to think about.
I certainly see why it has been compared to the work of Crossley-Holland and Laird - there are certainly similarities in both the writing style and the content matter and I imagine if you’ve enjoyed work by either of these two authors you will enjoy Press Wulf’s foray into medieval historical fiction.
A thoughtful, well written novel which both entertains and educates the reader by providing an exciting storyline and awesome characters along with posing intelligent and thought provoking questions about medieval life which are still relevant and poignant to a 21st century reader.]]>
It’s different. Different couldn’t begin to describe how I felt reading this book.
Robert was a child abandoned on a church when he was young. Bearing a hideous scar, and was horribly taunted by children for it, he was shy and reserved, when one day his fates changed when the priests discovered his brilliance, and became a prodigy of the Abbot of Blois. Georgette, on the other hand, was a peasant, who came from a small village, raised by the village priest.
I couldn’t even begin to imagine being apart from my family for days, let alone months. And the characters in this story were little kids! I had a hard time swallowing the fact that children even as young as seven would answer to the call of the Crusade, leaving behind their families for a great cause, for God. People were poor, and the only thing they can hold on to was their faith. And what other way to show their faith than to join a Holy Crusade?
It was something that you know was bound to fail. How can kids who were merely in their teens defend themselves, let alone reclaim Jerusalem from grown men, experienced in fighting, when they finally arrive to the Promise Land? Will they even arrive? But for some reason, it was fascinating to see how most of the kids held on to the journey. It was hard, daunting, and my heart felt like it was being crushed into pieces every time a child succumbs to the harsh journey. I’d like to think they were blinded by their own faith, but who am I to judge the kids in the story?
It was a heartfelt read. Linda Press Wulf’s book was a unique journey through the time where faith was so strong; it’s like a tangible thing, something everyone can believe in when they have nothing else to turn to. Georgette’s voice was vivid, and though wavering at times, it was a truthful account of a child who went for a journey that would change her life in ways she didn’t even imagine. This combined with Robert’s deeper understanding and complex musing of his life and his faith, providing a clearer voice to the story, made Crusade an unforgettable read.
Religious in ways that matter, Crusade is a story of a band of children’s journey seen through the eyes of Robert and Georgette, two very different people with a story of their own to tell, brought together in the end by the very same Crusade that had abandoned them. After all, you can’t talk about the Crusades without touching the subject of Christianity and how it was during those times. This side of the story made me re-examine my faith a little bit, but it’s what made me like the book more.
Linda Press Wulf has a remarkable talent for writing. It’s evident in how detailed her writing can be. I’m usually reluctant to read historical books, but you can tell how Wulf is well-versed with the theme she chose to write on.
Over all, reading Crusade is a gamble I’m glad I took. I have learned to love Robert and Georgette and was delighted to read along as they matured, their characters forged into something stronger through all the hardships and the loss they have faced, the love that they have for each other, and the important realizations they have come to about faith and life in general, all of which they wouldn’t have known were it not for the doomed Crusade that brought them together.
I’m surprised that I loved Crusade more than I thought I would, and I’d gladly recommend this book to anyone who would love to read a book with a deeper message once in a while.]]>
The novel sees Georgette and Robert leaving all they’ve ever known to join the crusade of a boy who calls himself a prophet; a charismatic young leader whose rousing words inspire them, alongside thousands of other children, to embark on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Drawing upon various historical accounts of a Children’s Crusade, Linda Press Wulf’s original tale reveals its subtle parallels with the kind of indoctrination that still contributes to religious extremism today. It’s the story of two characters navigating the strict teachings of the church and the prejudiced beliefs of their peers, and discovering what they themselves believe to be right and true.
Chiefly, Crusade is Georgette’s journey. Part coming-of-age story, part adventure, it’s packed with danger and conflict and inner turmoil for our heroine. Though Georgette’s innocence is perhaps her most striking characteristic, she also possesses a deceptive inner strength and determination. At a time when most regular people were illiterate and scholars were always male, her natural desire to learn also sets her apart. There’s a surprisingly passionate love story here too, as Georgette’s journey is mirrored by that of Robert, a scarred outsider with a remarkable intellect who has much to learn about the heart. The narrative voice, while third person, is so intimate that it’s easy to get inside both characters’ heads and see events as they do.
At under two hundred and fifty pages, this is a fairly brief read but also a rare and poignant one. Whilst the ending perhaps attempts to pack a little too much into a few short chapters, this doesn’t detract significantly from the overall experience. Rich in period detail and indredibly authentic in voice, it’s a book that takes distant legends of a Children’s Crusade and transforms them into something vital and powerful. Fans of historical fiction will no doubt be drawn to Crusade, but I’d also recommend it to anyone looking to immerse themselves in a beautifully drawn imagining of a world not often explored in YA fiction.
comment: … I really enjoyed Crusade! I agree about it being really poignant and I think that younger readers who normally wouldn’t read about the children’s crusades will find it easy to identify with characters their own age rather than reading it from a textbook.
‘Crusade’ tells the story of the Children’s Crusade in France, 1212. There are a number of different versions of what actually took place, but Linda Press Wulf has written a beautifully evocative re-telling of one particular version of events. History buffs will love this book and for those, like me, that didn’t really know anything about the Crusade, then this is an opportunity to enjoy a wonderful story as well as fill in some of those gaps in knowledge.
Press Wulf has created two fictional characters who guide the reader through the events of the book: Georgette, a peasant girl and Robert, an orphan who was adopted by the Abbey when he was just a small boy. They are brought together on a shared journey to the Holy Lands, by a young boy called Stephen, who is gathering children to lead on a crusade to Jerusalem, where he prophecies that they will be able to peacefully persuade the Muslims to convert to Christianity. Georgette and her brother Gregor, along with a band of children from their village, set off with Stephen, believing that they are on a mission to carry out the work of God. They are joined by Robert, who has become disillusioned at the Abbey and is seeking a higher purpose in life.
The story follows them on their journey through extreme hardship and hunger, sickness and poverty. Some of the things that the children have to face are heart-breaking and several times I felt very emotional reading it and imagining what they had to go through. At one point in the story, the older children have to leave the younger ones behind as they’re too weak to go on. I can only imagine what they must have felt having to abandon their siblings and friends.
Eventually Georgette and Robert do meet and I enjoyed seeing how their two stories merged. My only criticism would be that I would have liked to have followed them further, as in a way it seemed the book finished just as their story was getting started. However, their relationship is very sweet and touching and I was glad that they eventually did find each other.
Overall, I thought that this was a fantastic account of a significant event in medieval history. It’s informative and educational, but also a really moving read that was both touching and poignant and beautifully written.]]>
Linda Press Wulf has wisely restricted the number of characters she gives us in her account. There are two main ones, Georgette, a peasant girl who learned her religion at the knees of a kindly, gentle parish priest, and Robert, an extremely gifted orphan whose talents have been used for his own benefit and advancement by a cold and calculating abbot. The two young people are fascinated by the dazzlingly handsome boy with the golden hair, and they leave their homes and everything they know to follow him. Georgette is prepared to risk suffering and danger to save God’s land, feeling herself called to a holy task. Robert feels the same, but for him this ardour is tinged with jealousy: he has spent his whole childhood in study and self-restraint, and yet God rejected him, choosing instead an uneducated peasant for this glorious destiny.
From the very first there are signs that things are not as exalted and pure as they seemed when the beautiful boy swayed them with his words. The children are quickly footsore, the ground they sleep on is hard, and the lice drive them to distraction. Georgette is horrified to hear many of them admit that religious fervour was not their motivation for joining the crusade: hunger, curiosity and a desire for adventure prompted many to leave their villages and families for the first time in their lives. More worrying still, the boy prophet enjoys comfort and luxury while his followers suffer. He rides a high-stepping white charger, sleeps in comfort and eats twice what the others do. And when the young pilgrims begin to die, brought down by plague, famine and exhaustion his youth and ignorance cause him to make decisions which are both foolish and heartless.
For any reader curious to learn about the Middle Ages, this is an excellent book. The account of everyday life on the road, and the attitudes of rich and poor alike to the travellers show a depth of research and imagination which cannot be faulted. Many modern readers struggle to understand the extent to which religion ruled people’s minds and hearts at this time, and various attitudes to belief and the Church are well demonstrated in this story. It does disappoint a little when it comes to depth of character, however: Georgette’s thoughts and feelings are clear, but Robert’s personality would have benefited from further exploration. This gives the last part of the book, where the two young people grow up and learn to question Church teaching and the position of women in society, a rather hurried and shallow quality. Perhaps the book would have left the reader feeling more emotionally satisfied if it had ended with Georgette and Robert’s bitter-sweet return to ordinary life. Still, the drama of the story and the attention to detail make for a fascinating tale which will certainly please history-loving young readers.]]>