Jack Eason has woven a short but compelling tale around the events leading up to the Battle of Hastings, the end of the Saxon times in England. It’s a story of ordinary folk, as well as the rulers of the land, and how the decisions they made shaped the times. Full of well-researched detail, the vivid picture he paints puts you in the centre of the action. Recommended reading for anyone interested in the events of 1066
In this version of the lead up to the Battle of Hastings, the reader joins footsoldier Aldred and his Archer nephew, Cynric, waking from an uncomfortable nights sleep beside Ermine Street (the old Roman road) that runs through the Fenlands in the northern part of Cambridgeshire. They, King Harold, the King's brothers, and the rest of the Anglo-Saxon Fyrd (Army) are on their way to meet and do battle with, the Norwegian King, Harald Sigurdsson. The author, Jack Eason, has done his research well and intersperses known historical facts into his story. It certainly made history come alive for me.
As a Fleming, I knew that my knowledge of Britain’s entry into the Middle Ages was sketchy before I started reading Jack Eason’s Autumn 1066, but, after having read his novella, I must admit that it was also based on clichés and vague concepts. Autumn 1066 remedied this thoroughly. Eason has the gift of condensing and presenting historical facts in such a way that, although manifold and thoroughly researched, they hinder in no way the suspense of his war-story. Eason paints a clear portrait of the growing tensions between various factions competing for the throne, and the leaders of various armies, but also of the common soldiers, ordinary men who were forced to fight the wars of the nobility. For his vivid, and shocking, description of the battlefields, Eason focuses on two such ordinary warriors, Aldred and Cynric. When he describes the man-to-man fights and the deadly swarms of arrows, the reader can actually feel the fear and the agony of the warriors. In spite of the extensive historical background, Eason’s cast of characters, high and low, doesn’t degrade into stereotypes. They remain people like you and me, tackling life as best as they can when they are poor, and victims of greed and the overwhelming desire for power when they are rich. Writing historical fiction is all about keeping equilibrium between a passionate story and historical facts. Jack Eason has done that remarkably well.