The year is 1350. Boy, a hunchbacked, sweet-natured goatherd, is content in his quiet country life. But when a shadowy pilgrim with a dangerous past arrives on the farm, his world is turned upside down. Secundus is a man on a mission, and upon first sight of Boy, enlists him as his servant, ripping him away from tranquillity and plunging them both into a perilous medieval treasure hunt ... but there is more to the pilgrim's quest than meets the eye.
The Real-Life Background of a Made-Up Story
The Book of Boy grew from my lifelong fascination with the Middle Ages, and stories such as The Sword in the Stone, The Maude Reed Tale, and David Macauley’s marvelous Castle. Give me men in hose, women in wimples, and dinner baked in a pie.
About a decade ago, I learned of an ancient pilgrimage route in Rome, and spent years researching it, hoping to write a book. I got to visit Rome several times, bliss, and spend my days reading about Rome, also bliss. Most importantly, I learned a great deal about medieval relics. Patrick Geary, a professor at Princeton University, wrote a superb history, Furta Sacra: Thefts of Relics in the Middle Ages, describing how common it was for people to steal – and brag about! and sell! – the bones of saints. So when the pilgrimage-in-Rome book fell through, I started pondering relic theft, which is patently enthralling, and how to turn this thieving into a story.
Because I am a ghoul, I’ve also always been fascinated by the plague. And thanks to my pilgrimage research, I knew about “Holy Years” when hundreds of thousands of pilgrims journeyed to Rome for extra blessings. Thus my selection of the date 1350, a Holy Year just after the Black Death. The city of Rome had recently been leveled by a major earthquake plus a civil war, and France and England were locked in the Hundred Years’ War. All in all a pretty grim moment. But Boy, the wonderful wide-eyed hero of The Book of Boy, doesn’t see the grimness; he’s just thrilled with the adventure. As was I! As is, I hope, every reader.
The Book of Boy by Catherine Gilbert Murdock is out now, priced £6.99. Find out more and read the first chapter here.
Catherine Gilbert Murdock grew up in Connecticut, USA. She spent several years working as a screenwriter and has a PhD from the University of Pennsylvania. She is the author of several children’s novels in the USA and The Book of Boy is her first to be published in the UK.