- Publisher: Demco Media (December 1988)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0606044035
- ISBN-13: 978-0606044035
- Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 4.5 x 7.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 9 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #19,017,254 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Road to Damietta Turtleback – December, 1988
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|Turtleback, December, 1988||
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From Publishers Weekly
O'Dell, one of the few American winners of the Hans Christian Andersen Medal, among other honors, has written what may be his finest novel. He notes that his book "leans heavily upon" Francis of Assisi by Arnaldo Fortini, translated by Helen Moak, who also added valuable findings of her own. The Fortini biography is deemed the best of countless histories of the saint, but O'Dell's novel is unsurpassed at recreating the human beings in the orbit of St. Francis and the places where the great events of his life occured. The narrator is Cecilia Graziella Beatrice Angelica Rosanna di Montaro (based on Angelica di Rimini, a contemporary of Francis). Called "Ricca," the girl is 13, secretly burning with love for Francis Bernardone. The foppish, pleasure-bent youth is scorned by other men in Assisi, but adored by most women, including Ricca's slightly older friend, Clare di Scifi, whose family demands that she wed "advantageously," which is the aim of the di Montaros for Ricca. Transfixed by Francis, the girls witness his public disavowal of his rich father when the scapegrace strips off his clothes and declares himself a mendicant for Christ. This is the beginning of the wanderings that take Francis and his band to Damietta where men of the Fifth Crusade slaughter the Saracens, in the name of Christianity. Ricca follows Francis and, through her words, we experience the horrors and the loss of hope when the saint's rapport with Sultan Malik-al-Kamil fails to bring peace. Bishop Pelagius, leading the crusade, drives his soldiers to further brutalities while the sultan shows the mercy expected from followers of the Nazarene. Back in Italy, Ricca is with Clarenow founder of the Poor Clares who imitate Francis's brotherly bandwhen the saint dies. It will be a long time before readers cease to feel the impact of O'Dell's drama and the influence of the saint who urged us to love each other and "all things great and small."
Copyright 1985 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From School Library Journal
Grade 7-10 This novel of 13th-Century Italy is both the story of Saint Francis of Assisi and of Ricca di Montanaro, a self-centered young noblewoman who falls in love with him. Francis Bernardone, the son of a wealthy merchant, was a handsome pleasure seeker much adored by the ladies of Assisi. Through Ricca, readers see him transform through the years into a deeply religious man devoted to peace, a oneness with nature and faith in God. Ricca's family is horrified by her continued pursuit of her love and sends her to a convent in Venice. But Italy becomes caught up in the zeal of the fifth Crusade, and Ricca follows Francis to Damietta in Egypt where she witnesses the horrors of war and a city under siege. There she also comes to realize that Francis is truly devoted to his religious life and will never return to the secular world. The sights, smells and biases of 13th-Century life are vividly and realistically portrayed. Although the strong, willful character of Ricca is believable, Francis remains elusive and underdeveloped. Much of Francis' dialogue includes quotes from his poetry. While they do reflect his philosophy, they are not sufficient for solid character development. However, Ricca's strength and the rich historical background make this an enjoyable reading experience. Cynthia M. Sturgis, Ledding Library, Milwaukie, Oreg.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top customer reviews
This is the story of Francis of Assisi, as told through the enamored eyes of young Ricca di Montanaro, a fictional contemporary. Her story is not just the point of view for this historical novel, but the decadent substance of the book. Through Ricca we see in full color the vibrancy of 13th century Italy. The pettiness of the noble and merchant classes, the undercurrent of treachery in the church, and the breathtaking beauty of an already ancient landscape.
At the beginning, Ricca and her friend, Clare, swoon over Francis Bernardone's playboy antics. But when Francis infamously strips naked in the public square and declares himself a mendicant for Christ, their paths diverge. Ricca's continued obsession with Francis disregards completely his devotion to peace, nature and God. Her jealously of Clare's burgeoning involvement with Francis's way of life is one of many clear illustrations of just how blind her 13 year old mind is to his commitment.
Even a brief stint in an Italian convent cannot shake her conviction that Francis can and will change for her, if she can only prove her love. Soon, all of Italy is religiously obsessed: the Fifth Crusade has begun. The Road To Damietta is a journey that Ricca undertakes to follow Francis, and it ends in heartbreaking realizations for both of them.
The notion that I could be as moved by this story as an adult as I was as a child is a clear indication of Scott O'Dell's master craftsmanship. As an adolescent Ricca was my best friend, my mirror, my secret identity. As a grown woman and mother, she is my daughter, my coming-of-age memories, my first heartbreak. The setting is as brilliant as any photograph and the story is a country road through it. But the characters are our portal into that world and they compel us urgently, faithfully, and beautifully to the end of that road.
Ricca di Montanaro is thirteen years old and irrevocably in love. The object of her affections is Francis Bernardone--the son of a wealthy merchant and general bad boy about town in Assisi. Though most of the men look down on Francis, most of the women in town follow him with their eyes and stay up at night whispering word of his exploits to one another. Ricca and her best friend Clare di Scifi are no exception. But when Francis publicly renounces his father's fortune in favor of a life of poverty and spirituality, Ricca's hopes are shattered. Over the next several years, Ricca determinedly follows Francis, alarming her parents and family with her single minded pursuit of a man who has left behind all things worldly. When the fifth Crusade marches to Damietta, Ricca joins the march because Francis is there. It is at the fateful walls of Damietta that she sees firsthand the horrifying depths that violence and passion can reach when employed in the name of God. Disillusioned, his health ruined, Francis returns to Assisi and Ricca, as ever, follows him home one last time.
I have always found the history of St. Francis a fascinating topic. This is a fictionalized account told through the eyes of a young woman who decides she will love this young man for the rest of her life. It is an interesting specimen as Ricca herself is not very likable. She has many qualities I admire, including her doggedness and determination to remain true to herself. And she clearly recognizes something in Francis very early on that others do not. At the same time, she can be petty and unbelievably blind to realities, and these flaws persist to the end of the story. Normally, I might dismiss her out of hand. But for some reason her story (and particularly Francis') still resonate with me. I'm not sure if Ricca ever truly understands the man who became a saint. She and he are different kinds of creatures entirely. But in the end she does come to understand herself. And thus she achieves a kind of peace, I think. This is a novel about transformation and unrequited love, of human suffering and divine faith. It is haunting and real, never dipping into a cloying, romanticized take on the historical events it fleshes out. It is probably my favorite of O'Dell's many novels and, when I had the opportunity to travel to Assisi a few years ago, it came back to me with a vengeance as I walked the rose and white cobblestones of that hilltop town and remembered Francis and Ricca.
Thanks for reading my review.