Saturday 31 August 2019

#BookReview — The Confessor’s Wife by Kelly Evans #AngloSaxon #HistoricalFiction @ChaucerBabe

The Confessor’s Wife
By Kelly Evans

In the 11th Century, when barren wives are customarily cast aside, how does Edith of Wessex not only manage to stay married to King Edward the Confessor, but also become his closest advisor, promote her family to the highest offices in the land, AND help raise her brother to the throne? And why is her story only told in the footnotes of Edward’s history?

Not everyone approves of Edward’s choice of bride. Even the king’s mother, Emma of Normandy, detests her daughter-in-law and Edith is soon on the receiving end of her displeasure. Balancing her sense of family obligation with her duty to her husband, Edith must also prove herself to her detractors.

Edward’s and Edith’s relationship is respectful and caring, but when Edith’s enemies engineer her family’s fall from grace, the king is forced to send her away. She vows to do anything to protect her family’s interests if she returns, at any cost. Can Edith navigate the dangerous path fate has set her, while still remaining loyal to both her husband and her family?

“Sister, you’re to marry Edward, King of England...”

The news could not have been more surprising or unwanted. Edith of Wessex had been brought up by the nuns of Wilton Abbey, and she had no desire to leave her home and face the gauntlet of life at court. And the idea that she would be Queen of England seemed foolish, laughable almost — only it wasn’t. Edith was to marry Edward, and that was the end of it. However, for Edith, it was only the beginning.

Torn from a life of quiet contemplation, Edith finds herself in the very heart of the English court. It is here that Edith discovers an inner strength. A strength that she had not known she possessed, but if she is to survive the gossip-mongering, the curry of favours, and her mother-in-law, Edith must hold her head up high and become the Queen her country needs.

But there are those in court who fear Edith’s power and the rise of the House of Godwin. They will do anything to cast aspersions on her name and her family.

From the tranquillity of Wilton Abbey to the brutal slaying of the last Anglo-Saxon King of England, The Confessor’s Wife by Kelly Evans is the utterly enthralling story of Edith of Wessex’s life.

Meticulously researched, and with a masterful style which pulls you right into the story from the opening sentence, The Confessor’s Wife is a work of monumental scholarship. There is no doubt in my mind — this book is an absolute triumph.

In a time of treachery and war, the women of this era are often overlooked, and although much is known about the piety of Edward the Confessor and the turmoil that was left in his wake after his death, little is known about his wife, Edith. Evans has plucked Edith from obscurity and penned her story — and what a story it is. Filled with intrigue, treachery, scandal, love, and of course, God, The Confessor’s Wife is an example of historical fiction at its very best.

Evans tells Edith’s story with tremendous verse but also a keen sensitivity. Edith is highly accomplished and very intelligent, but she is also a very warm character, full of love for her husband. I thought Edith’s relationship with Edward came across as very plausible — history tells us that she did, after all, become one of Edward’s most trusted advisors. I thought their marriage was wonderfully portrayed and more importantly, believable.

As one would expect with a story about The Confessor, Edward spends a great deal of time away overseeing the building of Westminster Abbey, and while he does this, Edith runs her household with firmness but also fairness. Edith is the epitome of what a Queen should be.

Edith’s relationship with her brothers came across as slightly more complicated. As so often happens, the taste of power makes one crave more, and this is certainly how Evans has portrayed the House of Godwin. Edith is sometimes reckless as she makes sure her brothers advance — of course, the consequence is that other nobles see it as a consolidation of power and they fear where it will all end. I thought the rise of the House of Godwin — from earl to King — was beautifully depicted through the course of this novel.

Edith’s relationship with Tostig is very compelling. Tostig is a very likeable character, especially at the beginning of this story. He is very easy going with a great sense of humour and seemingly very compassionate, but there is a darker side to him. Tostig is very opinionated, and one might say narcissistic in his belief that he knows best — he will take no counsel from his sister. But Edith’s love for Tostig is unconditional, and she risks a great deal to save not only his life but also his reputation. Alas, she can not save Tostig from himself. Evans certainly has a wonderful eye for human frailty, and this especially applies to her portrayal of Tostig.

The desperately heroic struggle of Harold Godwin at the end of this book as he battles to retain his crown is profoundly moving, as is Edith’s grief when she learns that her brothers Tostig, Harold, Leofwine and Gyrth are dead and that the crown of England now belongs to that bastard Norman. But, when given the choice by William, Edith withdraws with honour. An ending that is befitting this worthy Queen of England.

Evans writes with a realism that was almost tangible and has presented her readers with a story that has an impressive sweep and brilliance. In a crowded bookcase, The Confessor’s Wife deserves the highest of acclaim.

I Highly Recommend.

Review by Mary Anne Yard.
The Coffee Pot Book Club.

Pick up your copy of
The Confessor’s Wife

Kelly Evans

I’ve written for as long as I can remember, and was reading adult books in primary school. Love of stories just doesn’t cover it!
Born in Canada of Scottish extraction, I graduated in History and English from McMaster University in Ontario, Canada. After graduation I moved to the UK where I worked in the financial sector. While in London I continued my studies in history, focussing on Medieval England and the Icelandic Sagas (with a smattering of Old Norse and Old English – tip: swearing in Old Norse is a really effective conversation stopper!).

I now live in Toronto, Canada with my husband Max and two rescue cats (Bear and Wolf). I worked in the financial sector as a trade technology project manager for over 20 years but retired recently to write full time. I’m a voracious reader (I brought over 3,000 books with me when I moved back to Canada from England) and enjoy history, music (I play medieval recorder), and watching really really bad horror and old sci-fi movies.

In my alternate identity as Lady Matilda, I post satirical articles on managing your medieval manor during the Black Death (Read them Here)

I’m currently working on my next novel, The Beggar Queen, set in Merovingian France.

Connect with Kelly: WebsiteTwitterFacebookGoodreads.

1 comment:

  1. Congratulations on your award, Kelly. Edith sounds fascinating and a perfect example of a woman who has been ignored by historians. Thanks for bringing her into the light!


See you on your next coffee break!
Take Care,
Mary Anne xxx