Being the reconstituted fragments of the account of the journey taken by John the Pupil and two companions, at the behest of the friar and magus Roger Bacon, from Oxford to Viterbo in A.D. 1267, carrying secret burden to His Holiness Clement IV, written by himself and detailing some of the difficulties and temptations endured along the way.

New Statesman review

Independent review

… and see your face on the roof of the friary. Sometimes you would cast your eye down at us and we would scatter. More often, the face would disappear as if it had never been there at all, as if you were something we had conjured to frighten ourselves with. He was a prisoner, it was said, convicted of monstrous crimes. He was mad, he fed on the flesh of children, he wiped his mouth with his beard after he had done feasting. He was in league with the devil, he was the devil, performing unnatural investigations. Sometimes we would hear inexplicable thunder from the tower, a few claimed to have seen lightning on clear sunny days. Once, by myself, grazing my father’s goats, I was touched by a rainbow, slowly turning, painting the field with brief marvellous colour.

As I got older, I would go there less often. The grass grew higher by that part of the Franciscans’ wall. Strange flowers bloomed. Animals refused to graze there.