I couldn’t help thinking while reading Troubadour that it might be Mary Hoffman’s best book. So far. There’s always scope for more, I hope. And it’s possible that you love best what you’re reading right now; a little bit more than the last really good book. But trust me, Troubadour is wonderful.
My second thought was about series versus stand-alone novels. I love returning to the characters of Stravaganza, and the settings are seductive. And I loved The Falconer’s Knot, because it was great and because it was a single novel. But perhaps Mary is doing it the best way, alternating between her Stravaganza and her stand-alone books.
With Troubadour she has moved into southern France in 1209 and the religious war between Rome and the True Christians. They all seem to be church people, but then we always get wars between very similar groups, who just have to disagree about something. It sounds very bloody, and pretty unreasonable from where I stand.
Troubadour is about a young girl, Elinor, who escapes an arranged marriage by dressing as a boy and travelling the country as a minstrel. She is in love with the troubadour Bertran, who is caught up in the war with the Pope.
These days we have almost forgotten the kind of love story where you love from afar and rarely meet, let alone touch each other. Quite refreshing to be reminded that love can live on through wars, for years and years.
Mary must have done a tremendous amount of background reading for Troubadour. It has a real flavour of the 13th century. It has the war with actual and fictional characters. It has a lot about troubadours and it’s got some early women’s lib.
All is not well at the end of this book. The war is far too bloody and unreasonable for that. But some things are good. And that’s good.