Book Review

The Confession of Jack Straw

by Simone Zelitch, Black Heron Press, Washington: 1991
ISBN 0-930773-18-7 available from Jura Books $13

The widely respected children's and sci-fi author Ursula Le Guin says of Zelitch's novel:
"In most novels about the Middle Ages, the deck is all face cards. This novel is rare and admirable in its uncompromising, unpatronizing identification with a peasant--an intelligent, vunerable man caught up in the dream of equality that flared into the English peasant revolt of 1381...A very moving and honest book"

This is a very fine tribute for a young author's first novel and one with which I would largely agree. The novel is narrated through the personality of the 14th century rebel leader Jack Straw. The novel concerns itself with his life in a small Kent village and later with his revolutionary companions , the radical parson, Ball, and the famous peasant warrior, Wat Tyler. Through using a blend of liberation theology and revolutionary socialism she convincingly manages to enter us inside the head of the peasant rebel. It is a rambling yarn (a little too rambling in the early chapters), which although somewhat purple in places, utilises a rich use of language. An uncomplex medieval romp that is written in the spirit of W. Morris' News from Nowhere, but does not suffer from his excessive romanticism and utopianism. Recommended reading for the bus trip to work. Graham Purchase