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The Norman Pretender

By (author) Valerie Anand
Format: Hardback
Publisher: Vintage Publishing, London, United Kingdom
Imprint: Chatto & Windus
Published: 31st May 1980
Dimensions: w 140mm h 220mm
Weight: 638g
ISBN-10: 070112508X
ISBN-13: 9780701125080
Barcode No: 9780701125080

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Kirkus US
Another smartly mailed-and-buckled historical novel by the author of Gildenford (1977), this one dealing with the cacophony of alliances and rifts - military, political and marital - clanking down around the English a few decades prior to the 1066 arrival of William the Norman Conqueror. Edward I is the aloof and ascetic but generally shrewd English king, and as the novel begins, he has just brought Godwin, Earl of Wessex, back from exile. (Godwin's crime: ambushing French noblemen even though William of Normandy is Edward's announced heir.) Godwin dies, the score is settled, and the King now lavishes material and political power on Godwin's sons, particularly Harold Godwinson - who will battle the Welsh (led by daring Prince Gruffyd) and keep an eye on cagey earl Alfgar. And when Edward has been persuaded that the English don't want a Norman king, Harold travels to Hungary to escort Edward's nephew, Edward FitzEdmund, back to England as new heir-apparent. (FitzEdmund will die of "smallpox" - is he really the victim of assassination?) Events are seen also through the careers of two women: Aldith, daughter of Alfgar, who will be given in marriage to kind, fiery Gruffyd after the truce but later winds up the grieving bride of already-married Harold when Gruffyd is killed; and Wulf-hild, maid to Aldith and daughter of a Godwin loyalist, who is one of the many to survive the feuds and battles and eventually accept William as King after the Battle of Hastings. Anand has created some convincingly cerebral 12th-century power-mongers, a steely and invincible William, agreeable scenery, and unobtrusive neutral speech - a sound and remarkably crystal-clear working of dense historical materials. (Kirkus Reviews)