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The Handfasted Wife (The Daughters of Hastings Book 1) by [McGrath, Carol]
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The Handfasted Wife (The Daughters of Hastings Book 1) Kindle Edition

4.4 out of 5 stars 193 customer reviews
Book 1 of 3 in The Daughters of Hastings (3 Book Series)
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Length: 378 pages Word Wise: Enabled Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
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Product Description


This is an era and a family that I can't get enough of reading and the author surely did them justice... Carol McGrath has done impeccable research and is so very knowledgeable on these troubled times. ---- Kathleen Ingram, Reading the Ages

McGrath's research into the medieval quotidian is superb, and beautifully translated into a pastoral fiction in the tradition of Hardy. ---- Historical Novel Society

Moving, and vastly informative, a real page turner of a historical novel. ---- Fay Weldon

About the Author

Carol McGrath taught History and English for many years in secondary schools and the private sector. She left teaching to work on a MA in Creative Writing at Queens University Belfast and went on to enrol for an MPhil at Royal Holloway, London. There she developed expertise in the middle ages. The idea to tell the story about the death of King Harold told from the viewpoint of his common law wife, Edith Swanneck, first came to her on a visit to Bayeux with the Launton/Gavray Twinning Society, which she chaired. She is married with two children and runs a business with her husband. She also reviews books for the Historical Novels Review.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 898 KB
  • Print Length: 378 pages
  • Publisher: Accent Press (14 Dec. 2013)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars 193 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #8,677 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Exquisitely crafted and meticulously researched, 'The Handfasted Wife' takes a poignant look at the lives of some of the leading women affected by the power politics and turmoil at the time of the Norman Conquest. The novel has an original focus on Edith (Elditha) Swanneck, the love-wife of Harold Godwinson, last Anglo Saxon King of England, a lady who is set aside when her husband is crowned with devastating consequences for her and her children. 'The Handfasted Wife' deals sensitively with the effect of war on women at a time when they had little control over their destinies, and with conflicts in faith and tradition when Christianity was supplanting Paganism. A story as finely worked as a precious tapestry; one for anyone with an interest in the Middle Ages or who enjoys sound biographical fiction.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
There are books that you want to finish at one go - the ones you want to race through the pages so that you will find out how the story ends. Then there are books that you want to savour - the ones you want to read slowly and enjoy every turn of the page, every single word, and every carefully placed punctuation mark, whilst trying to delay the inevitable end and feeling that you have lost a good friend. Carol McGrath's delightful The Handfasted Wife offers both of these reading experiences. Written in compelling prose, the book adroitly weaves the events of the precarious time to human life, the Norman conquest, into a rich tapestry and brings to life the story of Edith Swan-Neck, the handfasted wife of King Harold, from the few sources available.
The Handfasted Wife is an incredibly well-researched book; it is steeped in the past, but it carries the weight of history lightly, just as a good historical novel should. The characters are drawn deftly and convincingly and you learn to love them. Without giving anything away, if I had to pick a favourite character, it would be, apart from the protagonist and the other remarkable women of the story, Padar, that wandering skald, who also turns out to be a warrior. To me, he is the nexus between the Vikings and the English, one of the intriguing characters that allows McGrath to give life to the multifaceted society of the eleventh century. Those who have knowledge of the Anglo-Saxon culture, enjoy spotting the many references to Old English poems and other cultural references. I personally relished the scene with Beowulf!
I recommend The Handfasted Wife whole-heartedly to all fans of historical novels as well as to those interested in Anglo-Saxon period. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and was sorry when the book came to an end, but I am comforted in the fact that the story continues in the next instalment with Gunnhild. I cannot wait!
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Intended to be the first of a trilogy this is the story of Edith who was married to Harold Godwineson the last Saxon King of England who was killed at the Battle of Hastings. They were married according to a Danish, non Christian, rite and though the relationship was a happy one and they had several children after Harold became King in the early part of 1066 he married another lady in a Christian ceremony. This is a superb historical novel telling the story of Edith and her family in the months before the Battle of Hastings and the years afterwards. It really brings the period to life. Very highly recommended.
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Format: Paperback
This novel interweaves fact and fiction to bring to life not only a pivotal time in British history but also a perspective that I wish we had more of in history: that of the women. I was so fascinated by the former that I had to keep setting the book down to research more about those times, and was so moved by the latter that I had to look up even more. McGrath has successfully recreated the setting, the lives and the difficulties that beset the Godwin women after King Harold Godwinsson was killed at the battle of Hastings.

The story builds slowly, showing the background for why he set aside his `handfasted' wife for a political marriage, and the kind of prejudices that his first wife, Elditha (the main character) encountered. But it quickly builds as war approaches. We are spared the horrific battle, but from there on in, the action builds as we are plunged into the grief of loss as well as the fight for survival and for her children that Elditha and others like her endured.

I was especially taken by how Danish, Irish, English and Norman themes are interwoven, reflecting the way people of that era actually lived and how they perceived each other. So different from dry history books! And had I been more patient, many of the questions I wanted to ask were answered in McGrath's postscript. Best of all, I understand that there are more books about the Godwin women on their way!
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I loved the premise of this novel, and of the series: the Norman Conquest from the point of view of the women of the Saxon royal family. This one deals with Elditha Swanneck, King Harold's 'handfasted wife' and mother of his six children, who was put aside on the eve of the Battle of Hastings so he could make a political marriage.
The fairytale-sounding opening chapter promised something really different, and after that you get a very good idea of what life could have been like in 1066 (for women at the top of the feudal system, at least).
Unfortunately it takes more than a lot of research and some meticulous scene setting for these long-ago events to come alive: this story needed a big injection of emotion to make the characters and their relationships seem real. These women have lost everything, their husbands and sons are all dead or in exile, yet I was left completely dry-eyed as I plodded through some very dull journeys. In places it read more like a modern translation of a contemporary chronicle than a novel.
It's a blank canvas, after all, so she could have done all sorts of things with it. What a wasted opportunity.
But I didn't begrudge the bargain price, and I'll probably try the next in the series to see if it improves.
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