In John Boyne's The Absolutist, twenty-one-year-old Tristan Sadler takes a train from London to Norwich, England to deliver a package of letters to Will Bancroft's sister. Norwich, a city located along the River Wensum in eastern England, is the county seat of Norfolk and was once one of the largest, most populated towns in England, second only to London in prosperity.
Norfolk (literally meaning North people), shares the bulge on the east of England, known as East Anglia with it's southern neighbor - Suffolk (South people). The region is known as East Anglia after the Angles, a Germanic group who settled the area by the 5th century. The etymology of Norwich is essentially north-wich - wich being the Anglo-Saxon designation for a coastal trading settlement.
It is the most intact, walled medieval city in England and one of the few that did not arise from Roman settlements. Norwich began after the Romans had relinquished the area and was, at varying times, conquered by Vikings, Danes, and Normans. Richard I gave it city status in 1194.
Familiar landmarks include Norwich Cathedral, dating back over 900 years and one of the only cathedrals in England with an apsidal (based on semicircles) design; Norwich Castle, built by the Normans as a Royal Palace, now home to priceless collections of art and artifacts; and the Church of St. Julian, home of Lady Julian of Norwich (b. 1342) who was an anchoress (one whose vocation is solitary, yet not completely closed off from the world), a mystic, and also regarded as the first woman published in English with her book Revelations of Divine Love.
Norwich is also known for its bookshops and literary events. It was designated as England's first UNESCO City of Literature, in part for being the site of numerous firsts, from the first published poem in blank verse to the first provincial library and newspaper, among others. Authors from or associated with Norwich include Anna Sewell, author of Black Beauty, as well as The University of East Anglia graduates Ian McEwan and Kazuo Ishiguro.
This article is from the August 22, 2012 issue of BookBrowse Recommends.
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