The Falcon and the Dove is generally regarded as a classic biography, and it has long been popular with both young readers and adults. This popularity might seem a little odd, as the Middle Ages and especially medieval politics and religion are not subjects calculated to excite the modern imagination. Although tales of King Arthur and the mythology of knights in shining armor remain perennial favorites, the complexities of the factual Middle Ages are more than a little forbidding. Yet, as Duggan’s book proves, these complexities can be made both relevant and fascinating for young adult readers.
Duggan’s work remains both interesting and instructive, not only because he presents a very human—and occasionally humorous—story but also because this story poses difficult questions that young people in every generation face. Ambition, greed, power, faith, and devotion to a cause both excite the imagination and challenge the conscience. They are universal issues, and the conflicts that they cause are eternal. Although their world was very alien to modern sensibilities, Becket and Henry II responded to it much as contemporary leaders might. Duggan’s balanced portraits of these two individuals, both great and both flawed, cannot help but find parallels in modern society.