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Edith Pargeter and The Heaven Tree Trilogy - Her best work

Updated on February 6, 2013

For those who have never experienced a book by Edith Pargeter, also known as Ellis Peters there is so much richness awaiting you. Ms Peters is best known for her series based in a Benedictine Monastery in Shrewsbury, England in the 12th century. This series starred a sleuthing monk known as Brother Cadfael. He managed to solve all the murder mysteries in the town and keep people healthy with his herbal remedies. Indeed, he is an endearing character and was portrayed by Derek Jacobi in several episodes produced by PBS in the 1990's. Ms Peters has also written many other books

Some are more modern day mysteries in an Agatha Christie style but her best works are those that go all the way back to Medieval England. She is an amazing historian and weaves her tales through actual English history so skillfully that one will never realize the volumes of history that is being learned. These are lessons that would bore a student to death in the classroom, yet with some fictional characters added she can teach about civil wars on the marches of England, obscure advisers in the courts of English Kings, and yes, the day to day life in a Benedictine Abbey. I have read all the Cadfael Chronicles, four of the historical novels and several of the more modern day mysteries. I have loved each and every one of them. They have brought characters into my life that I will never forget, but the most unforgettable is The Heaven Tree. A five star book is one that holds you not just while reading it, but even long after the reading is finished. There is something haunting about it that just won't go away. The action and especially the ending of The Heaven Tree makes it just that sort of book.

Edith Pargeter was born in September of 1913 in Shropshire, England. Her mother taught her the love of history, particularly the history of the English - Welsh border areas. She died in October 1995. In her lifetime she received several awards, one of the most prestigious being the OBE (order of the British Empire). The Heaven Tree Trilogy is actually three books, all named for the first volume of the set The Heaven Tree. The other two volumes are The Green Branch and The Scarlet Seed. They can be bought separately but are published by Warner Books, Inc. quite beautifully in one volume.

Castle on the Welsh marches, similar to one which is discussed in The Heaven Tree Trilogy
Castle on the Welsh marches, similar to one which is discussed in The Heaven Tree Trilogy | Source

They were written from 1960 - 1963. Ms Peters originally only meant to write the first volume, The Heaven Tree. After it's completion however, she felt she had created these fascinating characters who still had much to tell us of their lives set in English history from 1200 - 1234. Ms Pargeter says she was inspired by architectural and art lectures. She wanted to delve into the life and mind of a great artist. She certainly did create a splendid artist in the character of Harry Talvace and skillfully set him to carving out a great church in the holdings of a March Lord. This was a turbulent time in the history of the English Welsh border and Harry and his family, friends and loves are wrapped in that turbulence from the beginning to the end of the trilogy.

This is a book I will certainly never forget. The interweaving of characters still ring true to this day. Love and hate interchange themselves and creation and destruction, honor and shame are compared and contrasted in a way I could never imagine. Almost 800 years later the lessons in the book ring true. We may never know the impact we have on other lives or the way things will end for us and the people we live with and along side of. Ms Pargeter felt The Heaven Tree turned out the closest to what she desired it to be. Give yourself a treat and set aside a time to experience some beautiful writing and learn about a time you might not ever know any thing about.


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