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The Handfasted Wife (The Daughters of Hastings Book 1) Kindle Edition
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|Length: 378 pages||Word Wise: Enabled||Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled|
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Top Customer Reviews
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!
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!
For a start, it's a fascinating story - the handfasted wife of King Harold, her place usurped by a church-wed wife in a marriage of political convenience - is forced to make the best of it she can at a time of great upheaval, as the Normans invade and the country is turned upside down by their unstoppable force. Her husband killed at the Battle of Hastings, she has her fair share of derring-do as she struggles for her own survival and that of her children.
So far, so good. A great premise for a story. And clearly very thoroughly researched, which made for interesting reading. I did wonder if perhaps the grittier realities of the Saxon times were rather airbrushed over - there did seem to be lots of fine cloth, clean linen, and delicious food and not a lot of smell, smoke, fleas and animal dung. But I suppose this story was dealing with the upper echelons of society so that's forgivable.
In her notes the author excuses filling in the gaps in the known story of Edith Swanneck, because, as she rightly says, this is meant to be a historical novel and not a work of history. However, I think in working so hard to recreate the history as accurately as possible, she might have lost sight of that sometimes. Ultimately I think there are a lot of missed opportunities for creating real, expressive characters with whom the reader can identify - they all seemed pretty one-dimensional.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This is a beautifully crafted book which has been meticulously researched. The details bring the story to life and paint a clear picture of the events surrounding the death of... Read morePublished 24 days ago by Reader
Took me quite a while to get through this book. I have to admit to losing interest once or twice as I found some of the writing a bit too descriptive and long winded, though not... Read morePublished 28 days ago by sw99
Always enjoy a Jean Plaidy novel. She always captures the mood of the eraPublished 1 month ago by Ann
Good story. Not a period of history I know much about. Well written.Published 3 months ago by Valerie Lamb
I found this book hard to put down, you become entangled within the story. A real must for lovers of historical fiction, especially the women, of whom history seems to forget.Published 4 months ago by Mrs Kim Gallagher