July 3, 2010

On My Bookshelf: Keturah and Lord Death

Seeing Keturah & Lord Death on my bookshelf brings back the memory of a summer evening. I had spotted a stag grazing in the raspberry patch. I moved closer, he stopped and checked my approach. I asked him if he was the Great Stag that Keturah followed into the woods. Ignoring me he went back to to his grazing. I tried a few more steps, but he raised his head with his beautiful antlers and gazed at me. His eyes asked me to follow, then he bounded through the underbrush into the woods. I did follow until the mosquitoes forced me back to the cottage. I consoled myself that night by rereading that wonderful book by Martine Leavitt. Her description of the Great Stag is a wee bit different from mine -
I was picking new peas in our garden, which is bordered by the forest, when the famed hart, the hart that had eluded Lord Temsland and his finest hunters many times, the hart about which I had told many a story, came to nibble on our lettuces. I saw that he was a sixth-year hart at least, and I would have run at the sight of his antlers, spread like a young tree, had I not been entranced by his beauty. He raised his head, and for a long moment he looked upon me as if I had stumble upon him in his own domain, so proud he was, and so royal. At last he slowly turned and walked back into the forest.
I meant only to peek into the trees to see more of him. I thought only to follow the pig path a little way into the forest in hopes that I might have a new story to tell of him at the common fire. I thought I saw him between the trees, and then I did not, and after a good long while I turned about and realized I was lost in the wood. 
[Thanks to Dave Skilling for the photo of one of my borrowed copies of Keturah and Lord Death that landed on Quadra Island]

Read a review from the Bookshelves of Doom
Keturah -- beautiful, sixteen, the village storyteller -- follows a hart into the forest and quickly loses her way. After three days, she is exhausted and starving. She know that death can't be far away.
But when he finally comes for her, she finds that Death is a young man -- melancholy and brooding, lonely and not without compassion. Keturah tells him a story, and they strike a bargain: He will allow her to live one more day. If, in that time, she hasn't found and married her One True Love, she will return to him, finish her story, and become his Queen.
Keturah becomes a Scheherezade of sorts, spinning out her story and escaping Lord Death again and again, But her fellow villagers are aware of her new acquaintance. The relationship terrifies them. Rumors fly.
And a plague is coming.  
Read the rest of the review here.

"A blend of folktale, myth and romance, the book's thought-provoking conclusion is perfect for adolescent pondering."
-- The Toronto Star

"Leavitt's novel is an unusual blend of folktale, myth, and romance, and its unexpected conclusion is thought-provoking. And while the prose is sometimes overly ponderous ('and my heart smote me'), more often it is lucid and arresting."
-- Horn Book


  1. Nice blog, and cool reviews of Keturah! I linked this on the Fitzhenry and Whiteside Facebook page.

  2. Glad you liked it and thanks for sharing.