Monday, December 5, 2011

The Tapestry Shop by Joyce Elson Moore

Joyce Elson Moore’s The Tapestry Shop examines parts of the life of a French minstrel, the historical figure Adam de la Halle. In the French town of Arras, Adam faces a trumped up charge and endures exile in a monastery at Douai. He leaves behind a wife, Maroie, who seems impatient for his absence.  Meanwhile at Vitry, Catherine, the daughter of a tapestry shop owner prepares for a possible marriage to Guillaume de Ridaut, a man whom she despises. She conceals her true feelings from her ailing father and relies on prayer to help her escape the cruel fate. After four months in Douai, Adam has lost his gift. During his journey home, he travels through Vitry and meets Catherine.

Both feel some attraction to each other, but Adam discovers Catherine may marry Guillaume, a native of Arras and his own union with Maroie encumbers him. Later, upon his return to Arras, his wife may also have turned from him permanently. Adam finds himself drawn back to Catherine, but it seems there is no hope of a future for them when she is prepared for her marriage. While they part for a time, in which Adam pursues his studies and Catherine's enduring piety forces her to tolerate her husband, neither she nor Adam can forget the other. When Catherine unexpectedly gains her freedom from her loveless marriage, a chance reunion with Adam offers the couple an all-too brief interlude to explore their feelings. Yet, providence may still lead Adam and Catherine in different directions.   

Few dramatic moments endear the main characters or leave the reader in fear of the possibilities awaiting each. Catherine and Adam torment themselves over issues not of their own making and accepts the part that fate assigns to them, while secretly yearning for more. Oddly, the greatest risk that the couple takes in being together doesn’t invite censure. While the novel is well-researched and reflects most of the attitudes of the medieval period, the pace and style is very sedate. If you're looking for a detailed biographical account of medieval life peopled with ordinary figures, you'll find The Tapestry Shop appealing.   

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