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Donna Fletcher Crow, Novelist of British History, has written more than 50 books specializing in British Christianity. These books include: The Monastery Murders, clerical mysteries; Lord Danvers Investigates, Victorian true-crime; The Elizabeth and Richard series, literary suspense; and Glastonbury, The Novel of Christian England. She loves research and sharing you-are-there experiences with her readers.

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Donna Fletcher Crow, Novelist of British History


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Donna Fletcher Crow, Novelist of British History

A traveling researcher engages people and places from Britain's past and present, drawing comparisons and contrasts between past and present for today's reader.

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The Hawk and The Dove

By Donna Fletcher Crow ~ August 16, 2010

Way back in the early 1990's when my Glastonbury was about to be published, my editor sent me a copy of his new release The Wounds of God the middle title in a trilogy by Penelope Wilcock.  I fell in love with the trilogy and even bought copies to give as gifts.  I had never forgotten the books, but had never imagined my path would ever cross that of this author I admired so much.  Imagine my surprise when I learned, in response to a simple question, that she is the wife of a colleague of mine and, Oh, joy, she has a new book soon to be released.

I immediately asked Penelope Wilcock to write a guest article for us, telling us about The Hawk and The Dove and about her new book.  Although Deeds of Darkness; Deeds of Light is dedicated to mystery writing and reading, it's also dedicated to good literature, and so I'm delighted to introduce historical novelist Penelope Wilcock to my readers:




I wrote The Hawk and the Dove, which was my first novel, when my children were small. Their father, a musician, had a very full diary at the time, with several concerts and all the associated rehearsals coming together at once, so that he was out of the house every day and evening for weeks at a stretch. At home caring for our little ones, though I loved their company, I was lonely.

In my childhood, as the daughter of a very reclusive mother struggling with chronic depression, with one sister five years older than me and a father who worked overseas, I spent great tracts of time alone amusing myself. I peopled my solitude with characters discovered in library books; they became my friends.

So in my adult loneliness, I took up the habit again. ‘I’ll imagine my own community,’ I decided; The Hawk and the Dove was born.

Its story is set in fourteenth century England, and that’s what determined its structure. You’ll probably have heard of Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales; you may not have heard of Francis of Assisi’s Fioretti.

Chaucer crafted The Canterbury Tales with what’s called a frame-tale – the story of a group of pilgrims travelling together in the spring. Into this frame-tale he embeds the short stories of The Wife of Bath’s Tale, The Reeve’s Tale, The Miller’s Tale, The Clerk’s Tale and all the rest.

In the Fioretti we read about the first friars of the Franciscan order, their aspirations and stumbling, and the charismatic figure of St Francis whose devotion to Jesus and way of simplicity captivated their hearts.

Because my The Hawk and the Dove weaves its fabricfrom the threads of monastic life in the middle ages, in homage to Chaucer I wrote the first two novels as frame tales. Because I love St Francis and his way of littleness and The Hawk and the Dove develops themes dear to his heart, I structured those first two books along similar lines to the Fioretti in homage to him.

The third book of the trilogy, The Long Fall, is a slow-motion close-up of intense personal experience and it seemed right to change the structure, from the multi-focus of the first two, to a single simple melody with no counterpoint or complex harmonics, just the solo song of someone whose life is ending.

That trilogy has stayed in print for twenty years continuously, selling quietly but steadily as new readers have discovered it over the years. I became intrigued with the idea of revisiting the series and writing a new novel to celebrate the twentieth anniversary.

The ‘new novel’ swiftly developed into ‘new trilogy’.

The three new books, which will be published by Crossway as The Hawk and the Dove trilogy was, are now almost complete. Book 1 of the new trilogy, The Hardest Thing To Do, is going through the publishing process now.

is about exactly what it says on the tin. This time the format of the book follows through the days of Lent in the monastery from the Hawk and the Dove series, one year in the fourteenth century, beginning on Ash Wednesday and finishing on Easter Day. It is an exploration of the requirement upon us as disciples of Jesus’ way of love, to learn to see things from another’s point of view – even when we dislike and distrust that other person.



The Hardest Thing To Do

As with the stories of The Hawk and the Dove trilogy, I have taken the struggles that have almost torn me apart at times myself, and the story of the beautiful Gospel of Christ, and written the reflection that arises from considering them into a story that I hope will make you laugh and make you cry, make you want to know what happens next, and take you deeper into the way of faith that Jesus calls us to.

As with the first trilogy, I read the unfolding narrative aloud to my family at home as I wrote it. Early on in the story, someone arrives at St Alcuin’s Abbey who has featured in the second book of the first trilogy – The Wounds of God. As I read to my family who grew up with the Hawk and the Dove trilogy and know it so well, as if the monks were their own community, I was interrupted by gasps of: ‘But that’s… isn’t that… oh my God, it’s him!!! Oh, no! What’s going to happen now!?!’

That’s right. It’s him. If you, too, are curious to know what happens, look out for the book, which I think should be available in early 2011.

Donna Fletcher Crow, Novelist of British History, has written more than 50 books specializing in British Christianity. These books include: The Monastery Murders, clerical mysteries; Lord Danvers Investigates, Victorian true-crime; The Elizabeth and Richard series, literary suspense; and Glastonbury, The Novel of Christian England. She loves research and sharing you-are-there experiences with her readers.

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Reader Comments:

Penelope, thank you so much for being our very first guest. I hope you can come back and let us know when THE HARDEST THING TO DO is released. I'm looking forward to reading it.
-Donna, August 16, 2010

Hi Donna - thank you! A pleasure to be a guest blogger here. I'll certainly let you know when the book comes out. Meanwhile the general doings and musings of my life, plus what I read, what I write and dates for retreats I'm leading can all be found at my blog "Kindred Of The Quiet Way".
-Pen Wilcock, August 17, 2010

Penelope, I was thrilled to find your review of A VERY PRIVATE GRAVE on your website this morning. What a very kind turn-about! Readers can see it here:
I think many will appreciate your approach to a simpler life— so needed in today's world!
-Donna, August 17, 2010

-Pen Wilcock, August 17, 2010

One of the things that I appreciate about Pen's novels is that they are fundamentally positive. She deals with some extremely demanding subjects, but she does so with kindness and clear-sightedness. She does not diminish the impact of evil actions and selfish choices, but she manages to show readers how to see with a compassionate eye.
-Tony Collins, August 18, 2010

-Pen Wilcock, August 18, 2010

What an important observation,Tony. "Fundamentally positive" reminds me of a statement by Calvin Miller that, if a novel is Christian, it will be optimistic. It also reminds me of an article I read recently that, even in children's literature, realism had gone too far. Whatever we are writing, no matter how dark our material, we need to give our readers hope.
-Donna, August 18, 2010

Wow! I'm intrigued! And that doesn't happen very often to me within the scope of historical fiction. To have a book achieve such (quiet) success over the course of twenty years is a testament to Truth contained within. I look forward to finding and reading these novels soon!
-S. R. Van Ness, August 25, 2010

Thank you, S. R., you won't be disappointed. I first read them 20 years ago and they have stayed with me.
-Donna, August 25, 2010


Hope you enjoy the stories S.R.!
-Pen Wilcock, August 25, 2010

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