To Calais, In Ordinary Time

James Meek

To Calais, In Ordinary Time by James Meek (Hardback ISBN 9781786896742) book cover

Available as Hardback, eBook

The new novel about home, belonging, love, courage and identity, set in the fourteenth century, from the Booker-longlisted author of The People’s Act of Love


Three journeys. One road.

England, 1348. A gentlewoman flees an odious arranged marriage, a Scots proctor sets out for Avignon and a young ploughman in search of freedom is on his way to volunteer with a company of archers. All come together on the road to Calais.

Coming in their direction from across the Channel is the Black Death, the plague that will wipe out half of the population of Northern Europe. As the journey unfolds, overshadowed by the archers’ past misdeeds and clerical warnings of the imminent end of the world, the wayfarers must confront the nature of their loves and desires.

A tremendous feat of language and empathy, it summons a medieval world that is at once uncannily plausible, utterly alien and eerily reflective of our own. James Meek’s extraordinary To Calais, In Ordinary Time is a novel about love, class, faith, loss, gender and desire – set against one of the biggest cataclysms of human history.

“Fans of intelligent historical fiction will be enthralled by a story so original and so fully imagined. Meek shows the era as alien, which it is, and doesn’t falsify it by assimilating it to ours. But his characters are recognisably warm and human”
Hilary Mantel

See more reviews

“An inventive and original novel that captures the distant past and pins it to the page”
the Times, Book Of The Month

“A glorious imaginative feat, full of complex, compelling, believable characters. Rarely have I been so captivated by a novel, so keen to hurry back to it and reimmerse myself in its world”
Sarah Waters

“Meek employs great linguistic invention and remarkable imagination to conjure up a world in which readers rapidly become immersed”
sunday Times, Books Of The Year

“An astounding linguistic fantasy about the advent of the Black Death. French, Anglo-Saxon and Latin collide in a world of fake news, uncertain sexual borders and the dread of a catastrophe which looks in some ways very much like our own”
Philip Hensher
spectator, Books Of The Year

James Meek

James Meek is the author of six novels including The People’s Act of Love which was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize and won both the Royal Society of Literature Ondaatje Prize and the Scottish Arts Council Award. It has been published in more than thirty countries. Meek’s last novel The Heart Broke In was shortlisted for the Costa Book Award and he has also written two collections of short stories and two books of non-fiction, Private Island, which won the 2015 Orwell Prize and Dreams of Leaving and Remaining. He is a Contributing Editor to the London Review of Books and writes regularly for the Guardian and New York Times. He lives in London. In 2020, To Calais, In Ordinary Time was shortlisted for the Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction.