E. M. Almedingen Zena Sutherland - Essay

Zena Sutherland

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

The story line [of A Candle at Dusk] is of minor importance, although it reflects historical events; the major interest in the book is the recreation of a period, and this is effected with notable success. The pattern of life on a Frankish freehold, the struggle for power within the church, and the pressing fear of Saracen invasion are vividly evoked. (pp. 59-60)

Zena Sutherland, in Saturday Review (© 1969 by Saturday Review, Inc.; reprinted with permission), May 10, 1969.

Many of Miss Almedingen's previous books combine historical data with fictionalization but [Stephen's Light] may well be her least successful. Set in a "composite" late fifteenth century town, it focuses on lackluster Sabina, a merchant's daughter, and the social convolutions of being jilted when her Richard runs off with Dame Adela of the local cloister. The story would be dull enough with just the woebegone thoughts of and slights to the girl …; written as it is, tiresomely, the detail-studded social fabric unravels endlessly. Besides the convent life …, there are shaky flirtations with grand historical movements …, seen from both the kitchen and the main hall. Also, the frequent inclusion of parts of medieval Christian ceremonies will just bug most readers. Te deum tedium. (p. 1154)

Kirkus Reviews (copyright © 1969 The Kirkus Service, Inc.), November 1, 1969.