Book Review: “Matilda Bone” by Karen Cushman

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Matilda Bone
by Karen Cushman

This meticulously-researched historical novel by the author of The Midwife’’s Apprentice tells the story of Matilda, a fiercely religious girl who, against her will, becomes the attendant of a bone-setter named Red Peg.

The setting is a small city in fourteenth-century England. And beneath all the details about the state of medicine in the Middle Ages lies a story about a girl learning to think for herself, learning that life is to be enjoyed and that love and friendship are more healthful than fear and superstition.

You may enjoy the cast of characters, from the vulgar female physician named Doctor Margery to the witless wonderworker named Theobald… the dear old apothecary whose sight is failing, and his cheerful apprentice… the fiery kitchenmaid Tildy, a motherly patient named Effie, and a bloodletter who knows all his leeches by name.

But the most enjoyable thing is seeing Matilda’’s transformation from self-pitying, self-righteous superstition to thinking, accepting, and opening her heart to people.