This is a very good book. It took me a little while to get my bearings regarding the time in which it was set. I'm not really big on the history of this time. But it is a really good historical novel painting a great picture of London at that time.
It also explores what happens to those people struggling against straitjacketing and oppression. The female characters are strong and believable in their attempt to navigate their way through a world that is inflexible in the place it has to offer women. The male characters each have their struggle as well, so it's not one sided in that respect. None of them are perfect, but they are all likeable in their own way.
The essence of the struggle depicted is emotional and it is told through the creation of a book of prayers. The lady for whom it is commissioned clearly wants something to speak not only to her place in society, but to her personally. And the people making it invest the images they create with their beliefs and ideas about her, as well as their own hopes and struggles. Some of their beliefs and ideas about her are based on their assumptions about her, others are either an accurate assessment or informed by direct experience. It is through this 'conversation' that Cadwallader weaves a tale about finding your place in an ever changing and harsh world.
There is no real happy ending, but the book is finished, and while it appears as if nothing much has happened otherwise, the characters all come to a better understanding of their lives and how they want to live them. This is the important journey in this book, and even though it is 1321-1322 in London, the things the characters grapple with still resonate today.