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The Handfasted Wife by Carol McGrath

User avatar
Rowan
Bibliophile
Interest in HF: I love history, but it's boring in school. Historical fiction brings it alive for me.
Preferred HF: Iron-Age Britain, Roman Britain, Medieval Britain
Location: New Orleans
Contact:

The Handfasted Wife by Carol McGrath

Postby Rowan » Thu March 3rd, 2016, 8:57 pm

The Handfasted Wife is the story of the Norman Conquest from the perspective of Edith (Elditha) Swanneck, Harold's common-law wife. She is set aside for a political marriage when Harold becomes king in 1066. Determined to protect her children's destinies and control her economic future, she is taken to William's camp when her estate is sacked on the eve of the Battle of Hastings. She later identifies Harold's body on the battlefield and her youngest son becomes a Norman hostage. Elditha avoids an arranged marriage with a Breton knight by which her son might or might not be given into his care. She makes her own choice and sets out through strife-torn England to seek help from her sons in Dublin. However, events again overtake her. Harold's mother, Gytha, holds up in her city of Exeter with other aristocratic women, including Elditha's eldest daughter. The girl is at risk, drawing Elditha back to Exeter and resistance. Initially supported by Exeter's burghers the women withstand William's siege. However, after three horrific weeks they negotiate exile and the removal of their treasure. Elditha takes sanctuary in a convent where eventually she is reunited with her hostage son. This is an adventure story of love, loss, survival and reconciliation.

***

The story unfolds at a steady pace and shows how stubborn Gytha (Harold's mother) was and how resourceful Edith herself was in staying beyond the reach of the Count Alain of Brittany, whom William intended her to marry. While this book is the first of a series, I do not intend to read the others as I am more interested in what happened in England after the death of William and the subsequent history there. I'm not interested in following the story of the Godwins to Flanders and beyond. 3/5 stars

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MLE (Emily Cotton)
Bibliomaniac
Interest in HF: started in childhood with the classics, which, IMHO are HF even if they were contemporary when written.
Favorite HF book: Prince of Foxes, by Samuel Shellabarger
Preferred HF: Currently prefer 1600 and earlier, but I'll read anything that keeps me turning the page.
Location: California Bay Area

Re: The Handfasted Wife by Carol McGrath

Postby MLE (Emily Cotton) » Thu March 3rd, 2016, 9:09 pm

Thanks for the review. I had this recommended to me by Amazon, but it isn't my era.

User avatar
Rowan
Bibliophile
Interest in HF: I love history, but it's boring in school. Historical fiction brings it alive for me.
Preferred HF: Iron-Age Britain, Roman Britain, Medieval Britain
Location: New Orleans
Contact:

Re: The Handfasted Wife by Carol McGrath

Postby Rowan » Thu March 3rd, 2016, 10:12 pm

I'm not really sure if computer generated recommendations are worthwhile. Hell I think it's hit or miss no matter what. Something I might love, others could hate, (and vice versa) even if we both generally enjoy reading about the same time period. I think you just have to find a book that sounds like something you'd enjoy and go for it. The two books I tried reading before this one were duds. Nothing compelling in the first few pages to make me want to read further.

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Madeleine
Bibliomaniac
Currently reading: The Blood Card by Elly Griffiths & The Loving Cup by Winston Graham
Preferred HF: Plantagenets, Victorian, crime
Location: Essex/London

Re: The Handfasted Wife by Carol McGrath

Postby Madeleine » Fri March 4th, 2016, 4:56 pm

Not really my era either, but there's an Essex connection to Edith as Harold may or may not have been buried at Waltham Abbey, which isn't too far from where I live, so thanks for the hint as not much seems to have been written about this period outside of the Battle of Hastings.
Currently reading "The Blood Card" by Elly Griffiths & "The Loving Cup" by Winston Graham


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