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Blood and Roses [Kindle Edition]

Helen Castor
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)

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Book Description

The Wars of the Roses turned England upside down. Between 1455 and 1485 four kings lost their thrones, more than forty noblemen lost their lives on the battlefield or their heads on the block, and thousands of the men who followed them met violent deaths. Yet almost nothing is known about the thoughts and feelings of the people who lived through this bloody conflict, whether kind of noble, landowner or peasant. Almost nothing, but not quite. As they made their way in a disintegrating world, a Norfolk family called the Pastons were writing letters - about politics, about business, about shopping, about love and about each other. Using these letters, the oldest surviving family correspondence in English, Helen Castor traces the extraordinary history of the Paston family across three generations. Blood & Roses tells the dramatic, moving and intensely human story of how one family survived one of the most tempestuous periods in English history.

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"'Sharply written, impeccably documented, structured with the trip and pace of a good thriller' Hilary Spurling Daily Telegraph"

Book Description

Blood and Roses is a gripping biography of the Paston family set against the turbulent background of the Wars of the Roses by Helen Castor, author of She-Wolves and Joan of Arc.

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More About the Author

Helen Castor is a medieval historian and a Bye-Fellow of Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge. Her first book, Blood & Roses, a biography of the fifteenth-century Paston family, was longlisted for the Samuel Johnson Prize in 2005 and won the English Association's Beatrice White Prize in 2006. Her second book, She-Wolves: The Women Who Ruled England Before Elizabeth, was selected as one of the books of the year for 2010 in the Guardian, Times, Sunday Times, Independent, Financial Times and BBC History Magazine.

Helen is one of the presenters of Radio 4's Making History, and writes and presents programmes for BBC television, including a three-part series based on her book She-Wolves.

Her latest book, Joan of Arc: A History, is the subject of a BBC Two documentary to be broadcast in 2015.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
49 of 50 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars detailed look at the Paston family 5 Sept. 2009
By M. K. Burton VINE VOICE
This work of history takes a look at the multi-generational Paston family throughout the years immediately after the Black Death and through the Wars of the Roses. The Pastons left behind an immense number of letters which have been miraculously preserved for six hundred years and as such are a historical treasure trove for those of us who wonder how gentlemen lived in the fifteenth century. Helen Castor recounts the rise and fall of their fortunes here, illuminating their individual personalities; the tenacious women, especially Agnes and Margaret, the hard-working William and John and the at times disappointing John II. Using the Pastons as a lens, Castor picks up larger issues at work in fifteenth century England and provides a fascinating biography about a surprisingly ordinary family.

I read this one for my dissertation, so I paid much closer attention to it than I would have otherwise. To my surprise, I still really enjoyed it. Helen Castor writes clearly and succinctly, so that while we're learning facts, we don't feel bogged down by too much academic language. She also summarizes quite a bit of information about the period, so I think this would be useful for even those who aren't too familiar with fifteenth-century England. Even though I'm well acquainted with the Black Death and the manueverings of the Wars of the Roses, it is integrated enough into the Pastons' story so as not to become boring.

I have personally read quite a number of the Paston letters; they're invaluable because the Pastons were intimately involved at court and reflect the surprising amount of social mobility available shortly after so many died in the Black Death, so they have both an insider's perspective and a consciousness of where they had come from.
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63 of 65 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Paxton Letters in Context - at last! 7 Sept. 2006
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
As a historian I have volumes of the Paston Letters, edited by James Gairdner, but they are just that, a series of letters. Helen Castor has achieved the impossible, taken the letters and made them part of a fascinating story that involves the reader all the way through. The Pastons come alive, with their grievances, their needs, their unhappiness, their illnesses, births, deaths and fluctating fortunes. It is good to see historical persons in their true context, Sir John Falstoft for one, and the various Dukes and Earls showing their true colours, not the ones history sometimes gives us. The duke of York rampages through the story, throwing his considerable weight around, (he's a favourite of mine) while poor King Henry slides in and out of conscious thought and the villains steal properties from their owners while their owners are in them ... This is the stuff of true history and Helen Castor is to be applauded for making it come alive in this readable and informative way.
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49 of 52 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent and fascinating book! 14 Jan. 2005
I bought this book for two reasons; firstly because I love the period of history involved, 1400's, and secondly because I love local based history.
However this book offers MUCH more than that. It has all the pace, twists and turns of a John Grisham legal novel!!! Except this is real, not fiction.
The book follows the lives of the Paston family from Norfolk. From their lowly start as minor landowners, promoted from the peasant classes all the way through the many struggles and trials both in the courts and out to maintain their status and earn the lands and money due to them.
This book isn't all about legal negotiations though. The 15th century wasn't a black and white culture where lands and possessions were concerned; it was more about whom you knew and whether they owed you any favours. Or which people of high status you could get on side. Throw in the dangerous ups and downs of fortune when the English throne changed hands many times during the Wars Of The Roses, and having to judge the best side to be on, and you have an absolute classic thriller!
Yet again though, the book is even MORE than that. The excerpts of the letters the Paston family wrote to each other, not only tell of their legal battles, but have some amusing moments of banter between brothers and even in a serious letter it might finish off asking the recipient to buy them some material as they can't find any of quality in Norwich!
It's a fascinating book, that tells the story of the Paston family, whom by the end you can not help but feel close to and that you know them well. You also get a wonderful insight of the Wars Of The Roses from a slightly background view, as well as lots of information on day to day living in the 1400's.
If you love history you'll love this book!!!!
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Something different 18 Jan. 2005
A fabulous and, for me, different read. Not having much knowledge of the period, I was delighted by the clarity and openness of Helen Castor's writing. She peels off layer upon layer so that we are left with a feeling of genuine knowledge about the Paston family and an understanding of their complex world. While the context is all-important, the protagonists are revealed to us in a humane and understandable way so that the reader gains a sense of historical difference while also recognising the timelessness of human emotion, weakness and interaction. Well worth spending some time with this book.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars It goes into great detail, thanks to the family letters which were ...
First of all, a warning. This is a serious review of the story of one family, the Pastons, trying to gain possession of their inheritance during the 15th century. Read more
Published 8 days ago by C. R. Meats
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Very good value and condition
Published 1 month ago by sellix
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Helen Castor is an excellent historian.
Published 3 months ago by frederick bailey
2.0 out of 5 stars Two Stars
A scholarly work but not one that interested me
Published 4 months ago by AJC
5.0 out of 5 stars Superbly written history of the War of the Roses thorough the eyes of...
A very readable, superbly written history of a fascinating period of English history. Ms Castor has delved through the Paston family letters, a remarkable and unique set of letters... Read more
Published 8 months ago by bw
3.0 out of 5 stars The Pastons At Home
I was a little dissapointed by this detailed but very dry account of the Paston family. The book explains how a whole collection of letters were found in the 18th century which... Read more
Published 12 months ago by Neil Lennon
5.0 out of 5 stars Historical novel
I bought this as a Christmas present as chosen by the recipient, who was very pleased with it. Useful for wet evenings!
Published 13 months ago by Keen computer user
5.0 out of 5 stars Blood and Roses
I chose this rating because of the easy way that this book is to understand, I love history and this book gives you an insight of people and life in the middle ages. Read more
Published 14 months ago by Mr. S. R. Smith
5.0 out of 5 stars If you like Medieval history, you'll love this!
This was recommended by a fellow student of Medieval history. I read it whilst doing the course and it really helped bring the era to life. Would recommend.
Published 14 months ago by Sophie H.
5.0 out of 5 stars Blood and Roses
The Paston Letters give a fascinating insight into ordinary peoples lives during the War of the Roses. Read more
Published 14 months ago by S. Richardson
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