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The Last English King Paperback – 3 Aug 1998

3.9 out of 5 stars 45 customer reviews

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Paperback, 3 Aug 1998
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Product details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Abacus; New Ed edition (3 Aug. 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0349109435
  • ISBN-13: 978-0349109435
  • Product Dimensions: 13.3 x 2.7 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (45 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 36,658 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

A rattling good story and with a plot which is gripping...superb, unforgettable (SPECTATOR)

Rathbone is a very clever writer.. scenes of such solidity no reader will easily forget them (TIMES)

A triumph... if there are echoes of I, CLAUDIUS that is a high compliment (INDEPENDENT)

A magnificent historical novel to stand alongside Rose Tremain's RESTORATION ('One of the very best story-tellers around')

Book Description

*A magnificent and rich historical novel set around the events leading up to the Norman invasion.

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Having never been much interested in the history of Britain before around 1485, this book has changed my attitude completely. It brings to life the England of the Anglo-Saxons, the Danes and the Celts in all its visceral colour and intrigue.
The story is told from several perspectives - the main one being that of King Harold's most trusted bodyguards - a man whose duty it was to sacrifice his own life if need be to protect his King, but who failed at the last to do so, in the hope that, in living, he could return to his lovely wife and community. Alas, as the reader finds out, he loses both his dignity as a soldier and his community too. There is a touch of magic about the telling of this story, which weaves together characters and events both historically real and fictitious, often through flashbacks. I found myself dreading the end - we all know the outcome of the Battle of Hastings - as Harold is presented as the humorous, passionate, heroic defender of the Anglo-Saxon way of life, with its easy relationship between feudal lord and serf, its relative plenty, and the far better status enjoyed by women than in the less colourful Norman society. The bodyguard, Walt, spends the years after the battle undergoing a difficult rehabilitation as he wanders through Turkey and Syria with a group of new companions, some of whom were also intimately involved with the events leading up to the Battle of Hastings.
History, it is generally said, is a story written by the winning side and the historical view of William the Conqueror is that he was a great warrior and administrator. This book presents the view that, while 'the Norman Bastard' may have been a fearless fighter, he was bad-tempered, psychopathic, hysterical, obsessed by order, and rather inhumane. Whatever the truth is about him and about Harold Godwinson, this is a really good novel.
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Format: Paperback
This is a super book, a must for those interested in Anglo-Saxon England and the events of 1066. The characterisation is first class, and never becomes overblown - both Walt and Quint are quite believable characters.
The characterisation of Harold is a most impressive achievment, and the reader who does not feel sympathetic towards him has a heart of stone. It also highlighted areas of Saxon history that I was unaware of, I had never heard, for example,of Edith Swan Neck - but she has perhaps the most beautiful name I have ever encountered.
Read this, you will not be disappointed.
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Format: Paperback
Whilst I appreciate that it's a cliche, this really is an unputdownable book. The author cleverly uses an actual historical happening, (the Battle of Hastings and events leading up to the Norman Conquest) to weave an engrossing work of fiction. I especially enjoyed the way one of the characters comes out with ideas way ahead of his time. Among other interesting facts we discover why England ended up with the patron saint of George, despite him having no obvious connection with this 'green & pleasant land'.
Several parts of the book are laugh out loud funny. The characters are exceptionally three dimensional so you feel as if you know them personally. Despite the comic nature of the book, one feels a certain amount of sadness as the historical events familiar to all English people of 1066, draw to their conclusion. It certainly helps you appreciate that English history took on a radically different texture after the conquest.
In all, an entertaining, slightly educational book that led me to read several other of the authors novels.
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Format: Paperback
It is about time reviewers stopped describing the Anglo-Saxons as English in inverted commas. Having found the word "English" in archaic forms in Old English dictionaries, it is clear that the Anglo-Saxons were English, that their language was English and that their civilization formed the backbone of what we consider "English" today. The fact that the language and ethnic makeup was altered after the Norman invasion does not change the above facts.
The Normans turned the country upside down by introducing the feudal system into England and changing political, legal and religious language, but eventually came to see themselves as English. The English masses did not become Norman. The identity and the language we have today still originates with the Anglo-Saxons. That is why we call it "English", not "Norman", "Breton" or "Roman". That England became more outward-looking and imperialistic under Norman overlordship does not mean that the Anglo-Saxons were not English. They were just more obviously Germanic. In fact, one could argue that it is we who are not the real English today. What is "English"? Isn't it just a feeling of belonging to that land between the Channel and Scotland?
The novel is very entertaining. Many details have already been mentioned by different reviewers, but what does it for me is Rathbone's evocation of the English desire for independence, a defiance of European meddling in a sovereign land, something to be found in today's "English". Rathbone demonstrates what a disaster Edward the Confessor was for his country (was he really "English"?) and Harold Godwinson's desperate and ultimately vain attempts to prevent the Normans from taking England.
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