Title: Master Cornhill
Author: Eloise Jarvis McGraw
Major Themes: England, Fire, London, Plague
Synopsis: When Michael is orphaned a second time by the Plague, and then loses his home to fire, what will he do?
Some of our favorite books have been those written by Eloise Jarvis McGraw. We probably would never have read any of them if we hadn’t used Sonlight Curriculum, but Mara, Daughter of the Nile and The Golden Goblet have been family favorites. We just read Master Cornhill again and thoroughly enjoyed it.
Michael is going back to London in the beginning of the story, after some months away; his foster father sent him out of the city to save him from the Plague. Michael knows that his family have all died, but is counting on family friends to still be there and take him in. When he arrives, however, they, too have died, as have a large percentage of the population of London. Michael must find his own way in life, so is very relieved when Tom, a ballad man, takes him under his wing. When Tom must hide from the press gangs trying to rebuild England’s navy after a punishing defeat by the Dutch, Michael has to find a new home and situation—and then London burns in three days of terror. Will Michael ever have a home and family again?
Master Cornhill vividly brings the London of 1666 to life. You won’t soon forget the results of the Plague, nor the terror of the Great Fire. Interestingly, I read a book a couple of years ago by G. A. Henty, When London Burned, and it told nearly the same story, although with a different protagonist and point of view, of course. I like finding the same facts in more than one story; that indicates, to me, that the story is based on truth.
For those wanting a story for boys around 11 or 12, Master Cornhill should be a good choice. It’s also a great choice for those who love a good historical novel.
WARNING: Tom uses language such as “to the devil” or “the devil’s own word” all through the book. Michael often says, “Ods bobs.” There were a few other terms I didn’t like, too, but there was too much to keep track of it all. This kind of language isn’t nearly as offensive to me as a lot of more modern words, so I didn’t worry about it for our family.
Read Aloud—Ages 8 – 12, 10 – 13, Family Read Alouds
Reading Independently—Ages 10 – 12, 12 – 15