Sunday, May 11, 2008

Keturah and Lord Death

I finished book #1 for the Quest#1 (Once Upon a Time) Challenge and it was a keeper!! A beautiful book that has stayed in my mind for a few days now. The kind that mixes fairy tale and allegory, that paints and picture with words.

Keturah and Lord Death by Martine Leavitt feels like a classic. I felt compelled to read this when I read a recommendation on a library website and I was drawn in from page one. The language is lyrical; perfect for the time and setting.

A fairy tale or sorts, Keturah lives in small village in the country of Angleland long ago. She follows a great stag into the forest one afternoon only to become totally lost. After three days she is nigh to dying and Death himself comes to her. She begs for more time. Time to marry her true love and hold her own wee babe; a bargain is made with Lord Death. Much like Scheherezade she tells him a story promising to come back the next night and finish it in exchange for one more day to find her one true love.

I loved how Death becomes a character, so handsome and not a "grim reaper", but still feared and respected. She felt compelled to fulfill her promise to Lord Death no matter how she tried not to. Was she in love with Death herself? Set in medieval times of peasants, lords of the manor, midwifery, and plague, the language was lyrical and phrases were quaint.

My one complaint was how time was treated. It seemed that in 24 hours more happened or was accomplished physically than would be possible or probable. I realize that I am more than nitpicking but it kept nagging at me. When I finished the book I had time to really ponder it and I decided that when faced with death that time does do weird things. It both speeds up and slows down. It's just altered. Keturah is faced with death every minute - so perhaps it was appropriate as well.

What a terrific book. Truly worthy of being a National Book Award honoree. I have recommended it to many in the short time since I finished it and I'll be looking for more like this - I read that Mette Harrison might be another match if I enjoyed this. It will be hard to find and equal!


Danielle said...

I came across this at the library and checked it out, but had to return it unread. I'm glad to hear it's as good as it sounds. I'll have to go out and just buy a copy. Maybe by now it's even in paper...

Inside A Book said...

Danielle, I was the same way. The book languished on the shelf until I had the Quest Challenge to complete. I wish I hadn't waited so long to read it - it was terrific!! Thanks for posting! Gaye

Carl V. said...

This is one that I have not heard of at all but it definitely sounds interesting. I'll be looking at the library and bookstore to check it out.