Modern Researcher Stumbles Into Medieval Village: In Emily Barton’s Wildly Imaginative Novel, Cultures Clash

The Testament of Yves Gundron

Emily Barton’s elegant and innovative novel The Testament of Yves Gundron explores an imagined collision of past and future. The remote island nation of Mandragora is a medieval village untouched by the modern world until yeoman farmer Yves Gundron  invents a rudimentary, but critical technology, and young Cambridge anthropologist Ruth Blum stumbles into the village.

Readers who do not get too caught up in the technicalities of the premise (how did the village remain undiscovered? Why is their language intelligible?) and grant the author license to create this imaginative space to explore larger questions about progress, technology, faith, and culture will love this fabulously inventive fable.

For a more detailed plot synopsis, and a link to the first chapter, read John Crowley’s review for the New York Times.

Barton is also the author of Brookland, reviewed here by Christopher Corbett.

The Gimme: published in 2000 by FSG, worth reading now. Thomas Pynchon’s blurb says it well:  “Blessedly post-ironic, engaging and heartfelt-a story that moves with ease and certainty, deeply respecting the given world even as it shines with the integrity of dream.”


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