Saturday, November 13, 2010

The Tapestry Shop - A Review

Carol Fass Publicity & Public Relations sent me this book in exchange for an impartial review.  Here's what they say about it:

The Tapestry Shop, by Joyce Elson Moore, is an historical novel based on the life of Adam de la Halle, a poet/musician who left behind a vast collection of secular compositions. While researching Adam's music, Moore discovered a little-known fact; the earliest version of the Robin Hood legend may have been Adam's play, Le Jeu de Robin et Marion. Because Adam was patronized by royalty, his play was probably performed in English courts, and would have changed, as legends do. In the retelling, Robin became an English hero, and Robin's companions became the Merry Men.

The book draws the reader into the Middle Ages, where women joined the crusades and students held discourse on the Street of Straw, but the overriding appeal of The Tapestry Shop may be Adam's connection to the popular legend of Robin Hood, the celebrated outlaw who was immortalized in later ballads, and who continues to draw fans around the world to films that center on this elusive hero. 
"The Tapestry Shop evokes the sights, smells, sounds, and moeurs of thirteenth century France while creating a plausible biography of Adam de la Halle based on the small number of facts known about his life.  Intertwined with facts known about Arras, Douai, Cambrai, and Paris in the 13th century, imagined events, individuals, and relationships play out against a backdrop of history.

The reader is privileged to experience life in the 13th century while rubbing shoulders with mostly fictitious characters. The rapport between serfs and landowners is portrayed in all its unfairness subject to arbitrary decisions. Catherine's marriage portrays the fate of women at this time even those with enlightened, loving fathers. The reader fears for the safety of travelers in the desolate and dangerous countryside between villages where they constantly risk being robbed, beaten, or even murdered. The stimulation and excitement of the trading fair in Troyes comes to life as Catherine and Adam look at all the goods available for sale and deal with vendors trying to get the highest price.

The eighth Crusade led by Louis IX (later Saint Louis) in 1270 is portrayed from within showing the diverse motivations of the participants: vows made to the Virgin, desire for profit, restlessness that pushed men and women to seek adventure and risk in unknown experiences. Exploitation of the naïve is often balanced by deeds of kindness and mercy. The reader can feel
the teeming crowds of humanity, the confusion, noise, and smells associated with disorganized masses launching themselves into the unfamiliar.

After spending many years studying and reading and writing about the Middle Ages, I enjoyed immensely being immersed in the thirteenth century in the company of a poet whose work I know well but whose life and experiences I had never imagined."

From Dr. Deborah Nelson-Campbell
Department of French Studies
Rice University
Ed. and Trans. The Lyrics and Melodies of Adam de la Halle

"The Tapestry Shop evokes a colorful, vibrant world which has long deserved to be woven into a story like this one.  It's a pleasure to see the pioneering trouvère Adam de la Halle at the center of it, and to read this imaginative treatment of his life and times."

From Dr. Carol Symes
Assoc. Professor of History and Medieval Studies
Univ. of Illinois
Author of A Common Stage: Theatre and Public Life in Medieval Arras
About the Author:
Joyce Elson Moore is an award-winning author of historical fiction. In addition to her novels, her work has appeared in major newspapers and national publications, poetry journals, and anthologies of selected writers. 
She lives on the west coast of Florida with her rescued boxer dog, rabbits, tree squirrels, a resident coyote, and several gopher tortoises that call her wooded three acres their home. Joyce is an unabashed Francophile who also enjoys ballroom dancing, RVing and overseas travel, book groups, yoga, visiting with her family, and taking classes in almost anything she has not tried.
Affiliations, past and present, include Historical Novel Society, Florida Writers Assn., Romance Writers of America, Toastmasters International (Area Governor), and National League of American Penwomen, as well as several other writers' organizations. Readers can contact the author through her website, where excerpts from her work are posted:  

The Tapestry Shop
By Joyce Elson Moore
Published by Five Star, a part of Cengage Learning
October 2010 / $25.95 / Historical Fiction
ISBN 918-1-59414-899-6

And here's what I say: I enjoyed this book.  About halfway through reading it, I misplaced the book for a few hours and I was very upset not knowing exactly how it ended (I was quite relieved when I found it).  I'll give the author that... she definitely kept me guessing.  The pace was good and I generally liked the characters.  There was something about the heroine in this story that turned me off a little bit.  I'm not really sure what it is, but perhaps it was simply her naiveness.  How she made decisions based on completely ludicrous ideas. But, I must remember that this was the 1200's and people did think like that back then.  And really, I did like her and genuinely wanted to make sure she was happy.  So overall, an interesting read.


  1. ooooh, sounds interesting. I was sold when you said you had misplaced it and were upset when you couldn't find it. I love a book I can't stand to be parted with :-)

  2. This is really different from the books you normally read, eh? Or at least, it sounds really different from the description. I'm sure being a reviewer for these books is a good way to read books that you normally wouldn't pick up!

  3. Amanda: I'm glad you enjoyed reading about Adam's and Catherine's journey. She made choices I may not have made, but I guess if you're desperate, you do desperate things. I'd love to have visited the Middle Ages, but only for a few days. Their lives were always at risk from one thing or the other. Anyway, glad you found your book again, and thanks for the review.