“The Unicorn, the Mystery: A Novel” by Janet Mason— The Seven Tapestries

Mason, Janet. “The Unicorn, the Mystery: A Novel”, Adelaide Books, 2020.

The Seven Tapestries

Amos Lassen

A Unicorn shares the story of the seven tapestries in Janet Mason’s “The Unicorn, the Mystery”. The tapestries are known as“The Hunt of the Unicorn” and date back to the 1500s and can be seen in “the Unicorn Room” in The Cloister in Manhattan, part of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Together they tell the story of an “unsolved mystery” that occurred in an abbey in France near the place where the tapestries were discovered. The unicorn while being pursued by hunters spends its time observing birds, smelling and eating the abbey flowers and fruits including  fermented pomegranates. It chases chaste maidens and even speaks to other animals. A monk shares the unicorn’s story with the mystical animal.

The basic theme, it seems to me, is the nature of wisdom and how to use it. Both the monk and the unicorn see themselves as wise yet are filled with inconsistencies as we all are. As the unicorn views the tapestries, we see a reflection on life during different periods yet time demarcations are not noted. We also get a discussion about the church through the views of two nuns. They are a couple who feel that their religion sees their relationship as sinful. Through then we become more aware of how Christianity sees morality and truth giving us a lot to think about. To me, this is the purpose of literature—- thinking about what we have read after we close the covers of a book.

Mason very cleverly brings together questions of religion and theology with some wonderfully drawn characters that deal with issues that we all face in our lives. Her prose is gorgeous and her storytelling had me turning pages as quickly as possible once the plot began. I have always loved the medieval period but it had been a while before I read a book about the period. The union of myth and history is spellbinding and I really loved looking at the emotions of redemption and love and lust and insecurity. I have been a fan of Janet Mason since I read her book “Tea Leaves” and my respect for her writing is firmly cemented by “The Unicorn, The Mystery”.

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