The Wool-Pack



The Wool-Pack

written and illustrated by Cynthia Harnett

Age: 9+

Interests: history, British history, medieval history, business, farming, mystery, travel

Methuen: 1951

238 pages, 19 chapters

Also by this author (all set in medieval England): The Great House, Ring Out Bow Bells!, Stars of Fortune, The Load of Unicorn, The Writing on the Hearth

Other books set in medieval times: Adam of the Road, The Trumpeter of Kracow, The Whipping Boy, The Door in the Wall

A successful wool merchant invites two Italian bankers to his home to talk business, and his son mistrusts them from the start. Young Nicholas Fetterlock is being educated to take over the family business, and already knows a lot about sheep and the preparation of wool for spinning and weaving. He is thrown into panic when he is informed that a wife has been picked out for him, but fortunately Cecily turns out to be lively and fun and the two hit it off immediately. In fact they work together to uncover a plot to cheat and discredit Nicholas’s father and are instrumental in securing evidence against the smugglers.

The details of medieval life and the wool trade are carefully and lovingly laid out by the author, with supporting illustrations. Unfortunately however, the historical tidbits really slow down the pace of the story, and some readers may find the first half plodding. I did, though I loved finding out about meals and manners and dress and the daily routines of those times. The formal relationship between children and their parents is highlighted, though the author skims over the prevalence of corporal punishment. (When Cecily’s father angrily threatens her with a thrashing over a very minor misdemeanour, Nicholas calms him down and she is spared a beating.) Gender roles were of course very restrictive for girls, but Cecily is refreshingly disobedient, an unusually modern girl for those times.

Anyone who is interested in medieval life will find this book fascinating, and the story is a good one, I just wish it progressed at a more lively pace – not everyone will stick with it to the end, I fear.

(no longer in print; used copies available via


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All writings posted here are © Kim Thompson, unless otherwise indicated. For all artwork on this site, copyright is retained by the artist.
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