Author: Kevin Crossley-Holland
As a medieval land-girl, Gatty has spent her entire life spent tied to her feudal lord’s lands–not that she hasn’t enjoyed herself in her impish way, spending her free time with her best friend Arthur, the lord’s son, and generally getting into things. But now that Arthur’s gone off on crusade and her last remaining family member, her father, has died, Gatty is at a bit of a loss. Unexpectedly, her lady steps in and decides to send Gatty off to her friend, Lady Gwyneth, who is preparing to leave on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. So, off Gatty goes on the journey of her life, meeting people, seeing places, and learning more than she ever realized there was to know, certain to return to England a changed girl . . . if she ever makes it back at all.
Crossing to Paradise is what historical novels should be: overflowing with memorable characters, moving plot, and seamless historical detail. Gatty herself is incredible–daring, impetuous, stubborn, and quick-tongued–and seeing the growth and development in her over the journey is a beautiful and moving thing. The other pilgrims who journey with her are also full of personality, and each adds something important to the story. In a sense, the plot is simple enough–it’s a classic tale of a pilgrimage from England to Jerusalem and back, detailing the daily struggles and wonders of such a trip–yet Crossley-Holland’s execution of the plot is wondrous, using small daily events and large happenings alike to mold his characters. I really appreciate (or honestly fail to truly appreciate in full) the wealth of historical details that are woven into the story without being obvious or unwieldy at all–and not just details of happenings but also of perspectives and ideologies. Crossing to Paradise is a beautiful story that I would greatly recommend.