I remembered nothing about The Door in the Wall except it was set in the Middle Ages and its protagonist was a boy who lost the use of his legs—both things which can be determined by the front illustrations or the back cover.
Ten-year-old Robin is the son of a knight and a lady-in-waiting. When his father goes to war and his mother is called to serve the Queen, it’s arranged for Robin to become a page to Sir Robert de Lindsay. Unfortunately before a messenger can come to fetch Robin to begin his new life, Robin falls ill with a vague fever that claims the use of his legs. As if that weren’t bad enough, his home town is stricken with the plague, and Robin finds himself alone and helpless in his own home.
Robin’s fortune changes when a monk named Brother Luke hears about him and goes to his rescue. Because Robin doesn’t have the plague he’s able to be moved out of the town and taken to the abbey. Though he is nursed back to health, Robin’s legs remain crippled, and he’s faced with an uncertain future as he tries to figure out how he’ll follow in his father’s knightly footsteps if he can’t even perform the simple duties of a mere page.
This is where the figurative “Door in the Wall” emerges. As it’s uncertain whether Robin will ever regain the use of his legs, Brother Luke and the other monks teach him that despite the walls (obstacles) in his life, he can always find doors (opportunities) to get through them.
Eventually Robin does take his place at Sir Robert de Lindsay’s castle, and shows there are other ways he can contribute than learning to be a knight. Although this book is short, the pace is leisurely, and the plot is rather low-key, with even the ending feeling a bit anticlimactic. Yet while I was underwhelmed by parts of the plot, the strengths of this book make up for its weaknesses. The style of de Angeli’s prose is not only complex and thoughtful, it also takes such a tone as to make the reader feel like they are immersing themselves in Medieval England. I imagine a child would definitely enjoy reading this book if only for it’s “time travelling” quality that transports the reader into history.