The Tapestry Shop is the story of the trouvère, Adam de la Halle, a thirteenth-century poet/musician who entertained in France's royal courts. Adam's secular play, Robin et Marion, led to the birth of the comic opera form and the first penning of the Robin Hood legend.
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 is Adam's connection to the legend of Robin Hood.
After enduring political exile, Adam returns to the city of his birth to confront the reality of his failed marriage, but first, he must find the hangmen who stole his purse and his dignity.
As protégé of King Louis's nephew, Adam attends the university in Paris. When he meets Catherine, a shopkeeper's daughter, his life takes an unexpected turn.
Catherine is bound to another by a secret she cannot reveal. Her deep religious convictions and guilt for her past bring danger to her and to those she loves. When she decides to join the king's latest crusade, Adam must confront his disdain for what he considers an intolerant Church, based on his knowledge of its treatment of Cathars and Jews.
Torn by conflicting ideals, they move toward their destiny, each determined to prevail, but the choices they make bring them both to heights and depths neither could ever imagine.
The Robin Hood story has always fascinated me; how the legend came to be, is it based on a real man or is it simply a tale. The premise of The Tapestry Shop is that the minstrel Adam de la Halle, a real 13th century musician, wrote the play which became the basis for the Robin Hood legend.
The story is Adam's and his experiences as he endures exile, robbery, a failed marriage, gains an education and falls in love. Catherine's story is told alongside Adam's: her arranged marriage to a lecherous man, her life working with tapestry, her desire to join the crusades as well as meeting Adam and falling in love.
Historically, this is a rich, well researched story with beautiful descriptions. You can smell the markets and hear the rattles of the wagons. It was easy to feel the drastic comparisons between Adam's time staying in common roadside inns and his time staying in the Count's luxurious home. But for all the lovely descriptions, I wished for more detail about the story. Especially towards the end of the book when it felt rushed.
Ultimately, I would have preferred less detailed description if it meant more detailed story.
What also surprised me was that the Robin Hood play was a fairly minor part of the story. More like an incidental piece that Adam needed to finish, rather than a focused plot point. Still, this is a fascinating story and one that readers of historical fiction will probably enjoy.
Thanks to Andrea Clift of Carol Fass Publicity & Public Relations, Inc. for the opportunity to review this book. You can learn more about Joyce Elson Moore here. You can purchase your own copy here.
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