by Matthew Kneale
1289. A rich farmer fears he’ll go to hell for cheating his neighbours. His wife wants pilgrim badges to sew into her hat and show off at church.
A poor, ragged villager is convinced his beloved cat is suffering in the fires of purgatory and must be rescued. A mother believes her son’s dangerous illness is punishment for her own adultery and seeks forgiveness so he may be cured. A landlord is in trouble with the church after he punched an abbot on the nose.
A sexually driven noblewoman seeks a divorce so she can marry her new young beau. These are among a ragtag band of pilgrims that sets off on the tough and dangerous journey from England to Rome, where they hope all their troubles and their prayers will be answered. Some in the group, however, have their own secret reasons for going.
Others, while they might aspire to piety, succumb all too often to the sins of the flesh. A riveting, sweeping novel of medieval society and historic Englishness, Pilgrims illuminates the fallibility of humans, the absurdities and consolations of belief, and the very real violence at the heart of religious fervour.