Thursday, January 01, 2009
Matilda Bone, by Karen Cushman
In the midst of medieval England, Matilda is left with Peg the bonesetter to learn the ways of medicine. She hates it. She would much rather be studying the lives of the saint with her beloved tutor Father Leufredus, but he has gone away. To Matilda, Peg and her colleagues (a doctor, a leech, and a barber) are barbarous folk -- not so much for their profession, but for being illiterate and uneducated. In her mind, only the learned Master Theobald is a worthy practititioner, although even Matilda acknowledges that he seems less successful at curing his patients. Matilda struggles with this contradiction and others.
Less funny than Catherine, and a bit more bookish (Cushman admits in the afterword that she fought the temptation to make this a textbook instead of a novel), Matilda Bone is an interesting read but a disappointment. You can't quite escape the feeling we're being taught here rather than entertained. And while the characters are interesting enough, one loses sympathy for Matilda's attitude and arrogance amidst such kindness and generosity.