In a Milk and Honeyed land
Already from the title, one gathers this book is set in that ancient cradle of humanity, the Promised Land. Mr Abbott paints a vivid description of the region and its people as it may have appeared well over three thousand years ago, doing a rather elegant tie in to the events related to us in the Book of Joshua.
However, the story is not told from the viewpoint of the Hebrew tribes, instead we are transported to a little town called Kephrath that nestles into a ridge, surrounded by olive groves.
The inhabitants of this little village are Canaanites, a society which counts descent matrilinearily rather than partiarchically, where the people survive as farmers, craftsmen and traders. This is the home of Damariel, the protagonist of the story, who is but a child when we first meet him. Damariel is a confused boy; he lives with his mother, his siblings, and a man he calls father but who clearly isn’t his father – after all, Damariel is a child of the gods, which essentially means he is the result of a ritual whereby his mother bedded with the village priest. Mr Abbott does a good job of describing the tension this fact causes, between husband and wife, between Damariel and his so-called father.
The life in this long-ago village is richly described, from the foods they prepare, to the tending of the olives and the rituals of life and death. I am not in a position to judge how accurate the protrayal is, but I feel transported to a land of hot summers and somewhat cooler winters, to summer nights when the family sleeps on their roofs, to a life that follows the ancient rhythm of the moon, to the wafting scents of mimosa and acacia, of honey and lotus.
Damariel grows up to be a compassionate priest and a seer, and will have to handle personal loss and betrayal, complex family relationships and the burden of feeling responsible for the well-being of his entire village, come what may.
This is not a book for those who want action or multilayered intrigue, rather it is a reflection on human life in general, subtly making the point just how similar the central issues in our lives remain – whether in the here and now or in the far back then. I was also quite impressed by how well Mr Abbott describes a society built on female lineage, with the women playing as important a role in society as do their men.
The prose is rich and fragrant and flows easily across the pages. Mr Abbott has made no attempt to antiquate the dialogue, which in general is a good thing. However, at times the expressions used were too modern, and a dialogue peppered with “look” and “you know” jarred with the time period.
In a Milk and Honeyed Land is a believable and at times very touching description of a man that always tries to do the best he can for his family and friends. Add to this an unusual historical background, some very evocative writing, and you have quite the read. I for one will definitely be looking for future books by Mr Abbott!
About the author
Outside of writing, Mr Abbott enjoys spending time with family and walking, ideally in the English Lake District. For more information about Mr Abbott and his work, visit is website http://www.kephrath.com
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