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The Conquest by Elizabeth Chadwick

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Misfit
Bibliomaniac
Location: Seattle, WA

The Conquest by Elizabeth Chadwick

Postby Misfit » Tue August 26th, 2008, 4:06 pm

Unputdownable! Is that a word? If not it should be, at least when describing this author's books. The Conquest is really two books in one, telling the story of two generations as it opens shortly before the Norman invasion of 1066. Saxon housewife Ailith loses her husband, brothers and new born child and attempts to take her own life, but is stopped by womanizing Norman knight Rolf de Brize. To avoid the romantic attentions of a London Goldsmith, Ailith accepts Rolf's offer to serve as chatelaine at his castle and (of course) love follows and they have a daughter Julitta. Eventually the relationship deteriorates, not helped by the fact that Rolf has a wife and daughter in Normandy.

The second half of the book tells the story of their daughter Julitta, reunited with her father after years of separation and she has to see her beloved Benedict marry her half sister who loves the church more than she loves her husband. Caught up in the revelries of a May Day celebration the actions of Julitta and Benedict have far reaching consequences on everyone's lives and.......

I'm not telling anymore, you have to read for yourself. Needless to say that once I picked the book up (and this is the second time around) I just could not put it down, and as with all of this author's books the way she brings the medieval period to life in such a graceful and effortless way, be it the sights, sounds, smells, food, clothes and battles is just awesome. Although her books are becoming rare and hard to find in the US they are readily available through UK and Canada and well worth the cost and effort to do so. 5/5 stars.

User avatar
Telynor
Bibliophile
Location: On the Banks of the Hudson

Postby Telynor » Mon March 2nd, 2009, 8:46 pm

This last year I've been carefully parceling out my collection of Elizabeth Chadwick novels so that I won't get tired of reading her historical novels, and secondly, so that I should have something new of hers to read. About one a month is doing the trick, and so far, I've not gotten bored at all with her stories.

When <I>The Conquest</I> opens, Ailith is happily married to her husband, Goldwin, and living in London. The year is 1066, and overhead, a comet is blazing in the skies, creating a sense of foreboding for everyone. But right now, Ailith is concerned with her family, and coping with the problems of everyday life. But change is coming, especially when a married couple from Normandy moves in next door. Despite a bit of misgivings, Ailith forms a bond of friendship with Felice, and her husband Aubert de Remy. While there are rumours of a coming conflict with Duke William of Normandy, Ailith feels safe with her husband and when she discovers that she is pregnant, her happiness grows.

Across the Channel, Duke William is preparing for war, intent on claiming the English throne for himself, and one landowner, Rolf de Brize, finds himself in the middle of it. He breeds warhorses, and takes the chance to be part of the conflict, knowing that the Duke will handsomely reward his followers. But his home life is far from a happy one -- his wife Arlette is beautiful, and dutiful, but hardly welcoming to him, and has only given him a single daughter, Gisele. It's a welcome excuse to pour his passions into his work.

From her earlier happiness, Ailith finds the world turning to quicksand under her feet as King Harold tries to fight off both an invading Norse army in the north, and the Norman invasion in the south. When she loses both her husband and child, her life turns bleak indeed, and only the de Remys manage to find her purpose again -- becoming a wet nurse to Felice's infant son, Benedict. For Rolf, he's rewarded with a manor for his hard work, and when he meets Ailith, he makes a proposition that surprises them both...

I don't want to reveal any more of the plot to this one, as part of the interest is watching Ailith's and Rolf's life together unfold. One of the strong points of Ms. Chadwick's work is that she knows the life and customs of the middle ages very well, and when she blends this with vivid personalities, both fictional and historical, the result are novels that let the reader feel that they are there. Too, her characters behave properly for the time and place, without modern notions tacked on, nor does she degrade the stories by turning them into what I think of as 'smut in fancy dress.'

By using her backdrop as that of the Norman Conquest of England, there are plenty of action as well as interpersonal relationships here. The description of the battle of Hastings is one of the best -- and more accurate -- that I've read, with quite a few chills for the reader. Too, the use of pagan folklore was a nice touch; while England at the time is certainly a Christian country, there are still some lingering touches of paganism in some customs, especially the May celebrations that form a pivotal section of the plot.

Besides the details of daily living, and the wider scope, one of the best things about Ms. Chadwick's work is that she's not at all afraid to put her characters through hell and back, and never settles for a trite conclusion to a problem. Especially in this one, actions have consequences, and while I certainly could feel the oncoming tragedy for Ailith and Rolf, there was a part of me that nodded in agreement, and thought, <I>of course this is how it would be, how could it be otherwise?</I> Too, she never makes her character act in petty juvenile ways -- these are adults here, with experiences and commonsense to them; they might be in bad situations, they'll make mistakes, and sometimes awful things happen, but they also deal with it as adults, and that's something all too rare in fiction writing these days.

One of the interesting twists here is that the story extends into the next generation, involving Ailith's daughter Julitta, the de Remy's son Benedict, and others who are introduced in the first part. Altogether it makes a graceful arc to the final resolution, and it works very well. While the early parts of the novel drag a little, overall this is a grand story, filled with plenty of ideas, conflict and a sense of reality that tends to be overlooked with most historical fiction.

Happily recommended, with four stars overall.

User avatar
Leo62
Bibliophile
Location: London
Contact:

Postby Leo62 » Mon March 2nd, 2009, 10:24 pm

Along with The Love Knot, this is my favourite EC :D
There is such a wonderful, wide-ranging evocation of this fascinating period. And the characters, while being quite modern, definitely felt like they fitted in the 11th century. My only gripe is that I wanted more El Cid and Moorish Spain :p

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LCW
Compulsive Reader
Location: Southern California

Postby LCW » Thu March 5th, 2009, 5:05 pm

I loved this novel! But then again, I've loved all of EC's older more romantic novels so far.
Books to the ceiling,
Books to the sky,
My pile of books is a mile high.
How I love them! How I need them!
I'll have a long beard by the time I read them. --Arnold Lobel

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Misfit
Bibliomaniac
Location: Seattle, WA

Postby Misfit » Thu March 5th, 2009, 5:24 pm

"LCW" wrote:I loved this novel! But then again, I've loved all of EC's older more romantic novels so far.


What I wouldn't give to find a romance author who could put out books close to this caliber....

User avatar
LCW
Compulsive Reader
Location: Southern California

Postby LCW » Thu March 5th, 2009, 5:40 pm

"Misfit" wrote:What I wouldn't give to find a romance author who could put out books close to this caliber....


Oh, I know! They have that wonderful romantic feel to them, perfect for when you're in the mood to curl up with a good romance, but they are so much more. They've almost ruined me for typical HRs anymore!
Books to the ceiling,

Books to the sky,

My pile of books is a mile high.

How I love them! How I need them!

I'll have a long beard by the time I read them. --Arnold Lobel

User avatar
Carine
Compulsive Reader
Currently reading: Jonkvrouw - Jean-Claude Van Ryckeghem
Interest in HF: I love history
Favorite HF book: Can't pin that down to only 1 :-)
Preferred HF: Medieval, Tudor and Ancient Egyptian
Location: Ghent, Belgium
Contact:

Postby Carine » Thu March 5th, 2009, 5:59 pm

I have this one sitting on my TBR shelf. I have almost all of EC's books and read a few of them. The rest is on my shelf above my bed (!!) blinking at me every day as I like to parcel them out aswell, it's like marvelous sweeties, you only eat one every now and then so they wouldn't be finished too soon :)
Last edited by Carine on Thu March 5th, 2009, 6:02 pm, edited 1 time in total.

User avatar
Misfit
Bibliomaniac
Location: Seattle, WA

Postby Misfit » Thu March 5th, 2009, 6:10 pm

"LCW" wrote:Oh, I know! They have that wonderful romantic feel to them, perfect for when you're in the mood to curl up with a good romance, but they are so much more. They've almost ruined me for typical HRs anymore!


I know, I keep trying to find something and they keep on hitting the wall :o :o

User avatar
Telynor
Bibliophile
Location: On the Banks of the Hudson

Postby Telynor » Thu March 5th, 2009, 11:58 pm

"Misfit" wrote:I know, I keep trying to find something and they keep on hitting the wall :o :o


Isn't it maddening? There are a few authors out there that write HR that doesn't suck, but having to wade through so much garbage to get there is the awful part. Isolde Martyn isn't too bad.

User avatar
Nefret
Bibliomaniac
Favorite HF book: Welsh Princes trilogy
Preferred HF: The Middle Ages (England), New Kingdom Egypt, Medieval France
Location: Temple of Isis

Postby Nefret » Mon August 20th, 2012, 6:31 am

I read the whole book over the weekend. It was the first Chadwick book I read in many years, and I'm glad a did.
Into battle we ride with Gods by our side
We are strong and not afraid to die
We have an urge to kill and our lust for blood has to be fulfilled
WE´LL FIGHT TILL THE END! And send our enemies straight to Hell!
- "Into Battle"
{Ensiferum}


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