2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
A page turner from an underwitten period of history,
This review is from: The Agincourt Bride (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I do enjoy a historical novel, even when not of the highest literary quality. I'd read a little about the early life of Catherine de Valois -- the poverty-stricken upbringing of a royal princess whose father was mentally ill and whose mother was indifferent, all played out against the background of civil war and English invasion -- and looked forward to learning more.
Hickson uses the device of a narrator who stands slightly apart from the action. Mette, the daughter of a Parisian baker, is delivered of a stillborn child just as France's notorious queen, Isabeau of Bavaria, gives birth to a healthy girl, her ninth child. Barely risen from the delivery, Mette is whisked to the palace to act as wet nurse to the Princess Catherine. Soon she adores the baby and, even when she has a daughter of her own a year later, Catherine still holds first place in her affections.
As the 100-years war rages around them, Mette and her charge are subject to the whims of the royalty and nobility about them. As the Duke of Burgundy takes charge of the royal children, Mette returns home, not to see her beloved Catherine again for more than ten years. As France reels from Agincourt and the death of so many noble families, with Mette's own husband missing in action, the dauphin dies, as does his next brother, leaving the churlish Charles heir to the throne.
One night, as the Burgundians retake the palace, Mette helps Charles to escape but suffers an unpleasantly graphic rape in the process. Catherine herself is subjected to the unwanted sexual attentions of the loathsome Duke of Burgundy. As the months go by, Catherine's fate is undetermined as the prospect of her marrying King Henry of England rears its head, only to die away again. Dear Shakespeare seems to have been misinformed when he shows Henry hastening from Agincourt to claim his bride! It takes five years.
Letters supposedly written by Catherine to her brother, the Dauphin, but never sent, do not add anything to the narrative and I don't know why the author has included them. They would serve a purpose if they gave us a different voice from Mette's, a different view of events, but they do not, although they do provide the excuse for another gratuitous rape scene.
Apart from the rape scenes (yes, civil war is awful for women: I don't want to read the details), this is a thoroughly good read, if a bit of an `hysterical historical.' It ends as Catherine arrives in England, paving the way for a sequel.