Each fortnight the ladies at Historical Tapestry will post a new letter of the alphabet and you do a blog post about a work of historical fiction that has that letter:
- as the first letter in the title
- as the first letter of the author's first or last name
- the first letter of a character's first or last name
- the first letter of a place where an historical event took place
The Hollow Crown, Helen Hollick
A wife of two kings and the mother of two more...
Aged only thirteen, Emma of Normandy is married in a strategic alliance to King Aethelred of England. Indifferent and arrogant, Aethelred is loathed by his young wife, who soon realises his failings as a man and a ruler. Their first son, Edward, is conceived through an act of violence that is little more than rape.
England is invaded by the Viking King Swein Forkbeard and his son Cnut. After a bitter struggle, and with fortune running against him, Aethelred loses both his kingdom and his life, leaving Emma, now dowager queen, to hold London. Cnut has already proven himself to be ruthless and powerful, a man of determination, fortitude - and passion. When he demands the surrender of London, or suffer the consequences, Emma stakes everything on the most dangerous and important gamble of her life...
This was the first of Helen Hollick's novels I ever read and at first it was a bit daunting. It is a very, very large book. However, the history it covers is extremely interesting and full of everything you would want in your historical fiction: love, hate, war, betrayal, intrigue, politics. I had never read anything that covered this eventful time in England's history and found the events that were covered extremely interesting. There are lots of characters that become incredibly tangled throughout the novel but Hollick makes it easy to follow each one and the many different events that eventually shaped England's future. Her detail in describing the time is amazing and really brings to life an era very distant and different from our own (and even from other, more medieval times). Even though writing about a much less documented time period, Hollick's story was very believable without any glaring moments of "That just doesn't seem to fit with the time." I was amazed at how Emma was able to survive her very inept first husband, the incredibly difficult times that encompassed the Viking invasion, and the events after her second husband's death. She was a very strong and determined lady. Her growth from a scared, naive thirteen year old in a new and strange land to a strong and very capable queen holding London against Viking invaders was wonderful to follow. The other main characters here all have very distinct personalities that will really cause you to either like them or hate them; there really isn't much in between with these strong personalities.
This is a big tome of a novel but I would recommend it to readers interested in the generations leading up to the Norman invasion of England. Hollick's novel will give you some very interesting food for thought.