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Gaveston Paperback – 24 Sep 1992
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Set in 1322, this is the story of Piers Gaveston, who was too handsome for his own good, as dictated by Edward to Robert the clerk. Other work by the author includes "Street Lavender", "Thornapple", and "N for Narcissus".
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There was no sense that Edward II was King of England, and a man with real power. From the very first page, where he talks of Gaveston's beautiful arse, I was aware that I wasn't in for a classy ride. Then came the placing of endless 'darling' and 'Ned' quotes into the mouths of the two main players, not to mention the frequent sex scenes that bordered on (bad) pornography. This all made it positively risible.
There was no historical sweep, no background, no presence of poverty or disease or religion or kingship or feeling of medieval England. Everything beyond the mawkish two-dimensional relationship that finally just irritated me, was pushed aside. Ultimately, there was no atmosphere, or respect for the fact that it was 700 years ago and that people thought and behaved differently, often in ways so odd it is now difficult for us to comprehend. The cover tells you all.
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
The book is a little too long. Once can sense what is coming halfway through and the last half is somewhat torturous. Hunt keeps on writing about birds and peasants as though the reader is not aware of what is happening. One has the temptation in the last 75 pages to skim. For the most part, however, it is an interesting and entertaining historical novel.
There's much to enjoy in the novel. Edward's feelings for Gaveston are sweet and touching, Gaveston comes vividly to life, and the descriptions of early fourteenth-century England are extremely well done. Much of the language is poetic and lyrical, and there were many passages I read over and over again in pleasure at their beauty. It's also one of the most historically accurate novels I've ever read. Hunt's research is extremely impressive.
On the negative side, Edward's inability to get Gaveston's 'arse' out of his head for more than about five minutes starts to grate after several hundred pages, and he too often comes across as a lovesick teenager. Edward and Gaveston's total absorption in each other, and their indifference to absolutely everybody else, including their wives, eventually makes them seem selfish and thoughtless. And the novel starts to drag horribly in the middle, when Edward is involved in endless negotiations to revoke the barons' exile of Gaveston - twice. Judicious editing would have solved this problem.
I'd recommend this novel to anyone interested in the period. There are quite a few explicit sex scenes, but the focus is much more on how much Edward and Gaveston love each other, rather than what they're doing in bed. Just be prepared to skip a few dozen pages in the middle!
Or maybe not. The book starts when Edward is a young teen and he already has a bent towards his preference to men over women by the time Piers shows up. Edward is instantly smitten and desperately in love - does Piers return his feelings or is he simply in it for lands and titles? After slogging through their *wedding ceremony* as well as Piers taking young Edward out to the stews to give him some experience with a woman (wonder why that encounter was behind closed doors without a scrap of detail but the next one where it's all young boys we get a full blown no holds bared retelling?). Gross, gross, gross - although the book finally flew when in the midst of a battle campaign surrounded by an army the lads just can't keep their hands off of each other:
"Piers stood in his breeches, a sight to be savoured. There was the firmness of his dark-skinned torso, and his muscular arms; the lean slender belly, the little black curls that showed about the navel. But the breeches! The breeches were tight-fitting, hugging arse and thighs to somewhat above the knee,and trimmed with orphrey, as it is called, Phrygian gold, that same rich embroidery that priests use on holy vestments. Luxurious, sybaritic, sensuous....
I licked my lips. "Unpeel, O blessed one."
And that my friends is when the book flew. Edward was a simpering wimp constantly mooning over Piers (actually more over his "arse", but you get my drift) and I just couldn't take anymore. I guess if you are really interested in the period and can tolerate the constant sex go for it, but anyone else should stay far, far away.