by Norah Lofts
This is the story of a place. The home of a wine-seller at a crossroads. When a group of Roman soldiers moved through the area they left their wounded leader behind, and he found an ill slave girl locked in a room (for her safety). Together they struggled to survive in the lonely place- all other inhabitants in the nearby villages having fled. By the time the Roman soldier had healed enough to leave, he didn\’t want to- had found acceptance there- even when people antagonistic towards Rome moved in and he had to hide his identity. What began simply as someone\’s home became an important locale in the community; eventually it became a tavern and inn. Over the centuries the building with its specially tiled floor served many different functions, but always remained in the hands of the same family, originally formed by that Roman soldier and the slave he rescued from starvation, so long ago.
I liked a piece of historical fiction written by this same author which I read many years ago, so I\’d always hoped to have more of her books. Unfortunately I didn\’t care for this one. The initial story of the slave suddenly finding her freedom and together with the Roman finding ways to stave off starvation until the settlement was populated again, when they became prosperous- was interesting. But then suddenly the woman was old, invoking vaguely understood rituals the Roman had mentioned to her, baffling her companions. And the storyline quickly moved on to other characters, all introduced very briefly as the book tells of how this place remained useful through the centuries. It just wasn\’t keeping my attention at all, by page 95 I simply lost interest.
Abandoned 376 pages, 1980