GODIVA by NERYS JONES.
England, AD 1045.
The Normans are circling, biding their time, ready to pounce on the English and wrest it away from the powerful Anglo-Saxon barons who grudgingly support Edward the Confessor, the childless, half-Norman 'virgin king'. the royal court is a hotbed of rumour and political intrigue ....... everything hinges on the succession.
Inevitably, Godiva, wife of Lovric, Earl of Mercia, one of the most powerful barons - and herself a major landowner in her own right - is drawn into the machinations at court. When Edward manoeuvres their eldest son into a treasonable act, imprisons him and uses him as a pawn in his game plan. Godiva's ferocious maternal instincts rise to the fore and the urge to protect her family engulfs her. As the courtly scheming undermines Godiva's hitherto solid marriage and drives her to despair and confusion, the stage is set for a story so powerful its impact has survived for a thousand years.
....... Inner front cover.
FIRST SENTENCE (Chapter1): A marsh mist had drifted in overnight and settled on the Sherbourne, clinging to the frayed riverbanks and tingeing the early morning air with a dank, sulphurous mustiness.
MEMORABLE MOMENT (Page 102): Large wooden platters were placed before the guests, each one resting on a big flat square of bread, where the night's spills of gravy, grease, wine and beer would collect and soak into the bread, so that when it arrived next morning in the mouths of the poor, the crumbs from the king's table would taste of the feast on which the rich had dined.
KEEP IT OR NOT?: Not, I'll be passing this one on.
The author of several non-fiction works, this was a debut novel for Nerys Jones who sadly died as it was being published.
Apart from the legend of in Godiva's naked ride through Coventry* I relished reading this novel in order to find out more about the woman behind the myth. A big fan of historical novels which combine fact with fiction, I confess that I become preoccupied with whether or not the author would deal with this aspect of Godiva's life.
Undoubtedly well researched, I just felt that, compared to some novels of this genre, the plot wasn't as well polished as I would have liked or expected it to be. Slow in getting started, the story, as a whole, was perhaps too 'wordy' for my tastes ........ a reflection of the author being firstly an foremostly an academic writer, an expert in Celtic languages? I don't know.
Still, certainly not without its merits, I loved the characters and especially so Godiva (in many ways a woman before her time, a landowner within her own right) and King Edward (outwardly very pious, he came across as a pervert who delighted in the discomfort of other) though it was the religious politics that I found most interesting, fascinating stuff, they gave a real insight into what I imagine life, with its then mixture of gospel teachings and superstitions, would have been like.
Though not up to the standards of the likes of Philippa Gregory, Godiva I'm sure will appeal to many fans of historical fiction.
* To read of the legend of Godiva click HERE.