“Where are we going now, Judith?” “To Estonia”
Judith picks up The Willow King from the table next to her.
“This is by Meelis Friedenthal” she says, with perfect pronunciation. “This book surprised me, delighted me and disturbed me,” Judith Robinson admits. “It’s a strange book as the main character’s narrative is deeply influenced by his mental health which creates a brilliant atmosphere within the novel and instantly draws into this dark world.”
The story is set at the end of the 17th century when our main character, a young scholar named Laurentius travels to Estonia to study there. At that time, when you were studying what we call science now, it was closely intertwined with religion. Back in his home country Laurentius had gotten into trouble because of his religious views, so he is now on his way to a new university, where he can continue his latest research on bloodletting, the evil eye and the position of the soul in the body.
Around him at the same time, the poor are troubled by hunger and harvests being ruined, and in Laurentius’ restless sleep he has visions of a king with a high crown and is haunted by paranoia.
You really get a picture as to what life was like in the 17th century, and how difficult it was for everyone, and how the common people had to cope with illness, hunger, prejudice, superstition. You get sucked into this whirlwind of Laurentius’ visions that he suffers from, and also the very hard reality of how people lived at that time.