Top positive review
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A delightful book of Edith Swan-Neck
on 4 July 2013
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!