The book: Although known now as the creator of Sherlock Holmes, Arthur Conan Doyle considered The White Company and his other historical fiction as his best work. The title refers to an English mercenary band of archers during the Hundred Years’ War. The book follows the adventures of two men from very different parts of the feudal hierarchy: Alleyne, a second son of a minor nobleman who after being raised in a abbey, goes off to find his fortune and John, a massively strong peasant who has been kicked out of the same abbey for flirting and drinking. They both fall in with Aylward, an enthusiastic recruiter for the White Company.
The story takes a long time in getting started, with plenty of descriptions of everyday life in the 1300s before the action gets going. Perhaps Conan Doyle was trying to set up a connection with the characters before thrusting them into danger, but they never seemed more than two-dimentional to me. The action set pieces are quite exciting and worth the wait. Although this was a fun book, I’d have to disagree with Conan Doyle and go with the Sherlock Holmes books as his greatest legacy.
Rating: 7 / 10
The reader: Catterall’s narration is outstanding. He’s a gifted narrator, using his tone of voice and pacing to play up all the action and humor that’s in the text. His character voices are particularly well thought out. Sam Aylward’s rolling baritone perfectly brings out the bravado of the old soldier. This is a top-notch recording. I’ll be looking forward to hearing more of Catterall’s work soon.