Open main menu

Gatty's Tale by Kevin Crossley-Holland

It is the year of Our Lord 1203. Nine pilgrims set forth from their home on the Welsh borders on a journey to Jerusalem. One of them is Gatty, a village-girl with a singing voice so beautiful it would make your soul ache. Her dream is to follow her childhood friend, Arthur, to the Promised Land. Lady Gwyneth is the kind, gentle pilgrim with a burden to confess. Snout is the cook whose desperate hope is that a miracle in Jerusalem will release him from his disfigurement. Nakin is the crafty merchant, Austin is the devout priest and man of letters, Everard is the cathedral choir master. Emrys is the blacksmith and Tilda, who can't be left behind, is his complaining wife. Nest is the precocious lady's maid. One of them won't make it back.

Gatty's Tale by Kevin Crossley-Holland

Buy Gatty's Tale by Kevin Crossley-Holland at or

Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: Perfectly written, sweeping in scale, heart rending and joyous, Gatty's Tale is a wonderful book. Heartily recommended for all children over ten, and all adults under a hundred and ten. It's destined to be a classic.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 400 Date: October 2006
Publisher: Orion Childrens
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 1842552732

Share on: Facebook Follow us on Twitter Follow us on Instagram

Those of you who have read Kevin Crossley-Holland's much-loved, much-praised Arthur trilogy will know Gatty already, will probably love her already. She rises from the pages, staunch, resolute, frank, sincere and so alive that you feel you could almost touch her. In some ways, Gatty's Tale is a rite of passage novel, for over its course, a singular child becomes an even more singular woman, and it's a joy to behold. But it's much more than that. It's an adventure story, full of wonders and terrors and sad interludes but happy endings. It's an amazingly vivid presentation of a time when people really did believe a pilgrimage could save a soul, when they really did set out on such a journey knowing it was very likely they would die along the way. It's a study on how a group of people interact when they are thrown together at such close quarters for months on end. It's a love story, too. Gatty's Tale is one of those rare books that is just, well, everything, really.

Most of all though, this really is Gatty's Tale. And there isn't a moment, a page, a word, at which you do not wish her well.

This is an epic, sweeping book, perfectly realised. Crossley-Holland doesn't put a foot wrong. The language is spare and direct, never flamboyant, and yet it is energetic, vivid, and always dynamic. Every high emotion is here - courage, love, grief, passion, terror and joy - but there is not a mawkish or sentimental moment. Gatty's Tale simply carries you away to its world and doesn't let you go until its very last page. Children under ten will probably find it too vast an undertaking - there are three hundred and fifty pages - but those in the last years of primary school and all those above, including the grown ups, will be the richer for reading it.

Gatty's Tale is Orion's lead children's book for the autumn, and so it should be. They are lucky to have it. If the Arthur trilogy was Crossley-Holland's book of hours with its short chapters and vivid vignettes, Gatty is his addition to Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. The title is no accident, nor the jacket design. It captures Chaucer's earthy vitality and shows us the exuberant, lusty world of medieval life through a veritable panoply of colour, pageant and wonder. It is dazzling. And in Gatty, we find a heroine we really could follow to the end of time and back again.

I cannot imagine a better book you could buy for your child.

Many thanks to Orion for letting me read it.

Please share on: Facebook Facebook, Follow us on Twitter Twitter and Follow us on Instagram Instagram

Buy Gatty's Tale by Kevin Crossley-Holland at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Gatty's Tale by Kevin Crossley-Holland at Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy Gatty's Tale by Kevin Crossley-Holland at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Gatty's Tale by Kevin Crossley-Holland at


Like to comment on this review?

Just send us an email and we'll put the best up on the site.

Anne Marshall said:

What a fabulously lively & passionate review - if I hadn't already planned to buy this book for my son I certainly would have after reading this.

Anne Marshall added:

I ordered the audio book of Gatty's Tale (my son is very dyslexic) only to discover it is abridged, which is disappointing & feels discriminatory. I was initially delighted that the book was actually available in audio format, why oh why do 'they' do this?

Sue said:

I don't like the idea of abridging books. If parts of the plot weren't needed, why did the author have them in in the first place? If the author thought them necessary, why have they been omitted from the audio version? I think it comes down to producing something as cheaply as possible to be played within a certain time limit. Jill tells me that the unabridged version is often available from Talking Books for the Blind, only not so soon after publication of the book.

abz_1195 said:

This is a magical tail that you cant put down from the moment you pick it up, while Gatty is on her journey you are there with her learning the charartistics of each of the other pilgrims.

Magda said:

I read it at last, and it is, indeed, wonderful! I am very glad I did (as it's the second time I took it out).

What I loved most is that there is not a noticeable anachronism (psychologically, I mean, maybe except for rather too many nice people in proportion to the bad ones) in sight, and despite that you can connect to the characters.