I really, really really enjoyed this book. It is simply a good story and it came at a time when I wanted a good historical novel that wasn’t too heavy or high brow. The Road to Jerusalem is a Swedish historical novel.
The style in which it is written may not suit some as it broke the rule of ‘show and not tell’. Guillou instead used very little dialogue and instead reported what happened in a rather relaxed narration. It is from the perspective of an author who already knows the outcome and is merely relating the story to the listener.
The story reminds me a little of The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett, with the monks, Christianity and mention of stone masons from Briton! It also reminded me of Brethren by Robyn Young, as both books are quite similar in storyline. Both books are the first in a trilogy that starts off in a monastery, that is about the Crusades and the Templar Knights and also involves a forbidden love.
The difference is that Brethren is a load of drivel and whilst The Road to Jerusalem may not have the most elegant style of writing, at least Guillou did not resort to maidens dressed in white, transporting apples around in her skirts who then dropped them right in front of the hero of the story.
What I liked about this book mainly is seeing a part of history from a different country’s perspective. Sweden is of course not Sweden as we know it today and part of what this novel sets up is the battles between the men who are vying to become King and unite the lands of Götaland and Svealand.
Guillou created a historic world that felt real and believable. Of course, I do not know a great deal about Scandinavian history so naturally I do not know how accurate this is as a historical novel – but it felt believable. I felt as if I was in medieval Scandinavia and I believed in the characters. I enjoyed both the religious and the political aspects of the story.
I think that historical novels should adhere to history as much as possible, but of course it is impossible to always be accurate. For one thing authors are not historians and there has to be an element of dramatic license, at least in presenting a likeable main character whom an audience can relate to and a world easy and simple enough for most readers to understand without needing to be historians themselves.
I reached the end with my heart bursting to read the second novel, which I have since ordered and can’t wait to get my hands on. I am terrible usually with series because it can take me years to get around to reading the next in line – but I am determined that this won’t be the case with these books. I want to find out what happens next to Arn.
There is a movie based on this trilogy which I haven’t seen yet. In fact, it was the film that lead me to finding out about this book. I look forward to seeing how it translates to film, especially as one of the actresses is Sofia Helin, from the Swedish/Danish TV crime series The Bridge.