Books set in Europe, Coming of age, Cushman-Karen, Fiction, Finding Your Self, Historical Fiction, Social Commentary, Young Adult

#628 Matilda Bone by Karen Cushman

Matilda Bone by Karen CushmanMatilda Bone by Karen Cushman

Matilda is taken from the only life she knew and told that she is to be an apprentice to a bone setter on Blood and Bone Alley. The messenger will not even take her into the alley and tells her that she must go alone. There she meets Peg, who is the most blasphemous person Matilda has ever encountered. Matilda has been raised by a man of God and knew how to read Latin and say her prayers. She knew all the saints and many of the demons of Hell, but she really doesn’t know anything of the outside world.

Her life with Peg is quite difficult at first. Matilda doesn’t know how to make a fire or buy fish for dinner. People see her as innocent and take advantage of her, but she starts to learn, little by little. She makes mistakes with Peg and bone-setting. She lets the plaster harden, when she shouldn’t have.

Over time, Matilda watches Peg, and another woman who doctors people in the region, heal people. She thinks a physician in a nicer part of town knows more and would have more success, but it seems his ways are not necessarily the best ways. Matilda makes friends and starts to care for those around her. She learns that perhaps both life and religion are a little more complicated than she had first thought. Just because someone seems educated does not always mean they are wise.

What I liked

I have always thoroughly enjoyed Karen Cushman books. She writes for a very interesting time period in history. I love the characters in her books. They always end up learning important life lessons and skills that enable them to be adults in the real world. Karen puts a lot of research into her books. For this book, she did research medicine for the era. She read about healers of this nature or that nature.

I like that Matilda comes to be confident, or somewhat confident, in her own shoes. It’s difficult to find out who you are when you’re so young. What do you think about certain things? When do your opinions quit becoming the opinions of others and become your own opinions?

What I didn’t like

Let’s just be glad we’re not going to doctors back in the day. Some of their treatments still have their place in medicine, although rarely, but most of these treatments didn’t do a darn thing to help anybody. Leeches aren’t need for every ailment. There are truly some cases where you might need to use leeches in your healing process, but if you’ve just got a cold, you don’t need leeches.


Matilda is a great character and I loved all the folklore and medicinal talk.

Weigh In

Do you think people ever truly reach a point where their thoughts are solely their own thoughts and not the opinions of others?

At what point in life does a person start having their own real opinions?


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