5 of 5 stars
The Making of England 3
Historical Fiction England
1186 – England.
Gilbert Foliot, the Bishop of London, has witnessed first-hand the terrifying and bloody civil wars that have ripped the country apart under the reign of King Henry II – a time in history so traumatic it became known as The Anarchy.
The greatest letter writer of the twelfth century, Foliot writes of a man who has impacted history – Harold of Hereford. Harold, one of the nine founders of the Knights Templar, is a heroic survivor of the fearsome battles of the Crusader States and a loyal warrior in the cause of Empress Matilda.
During a time of ruthless brutality, greed and ambition, Harold carries the legacy of England’s past and its hopes for the future.
Set out as quite a few books set in this period are, by someone telling the story of someone else, or someone telling their story to someone else…get over the initial groans, and you’ve got a really good, involving, interesting and evocative story. Here, it’s even a bit more convoluted, as the story teller is telling a story, as it was told to him by Harold of Hereward, in letters to his church friend high up in the Vatican. However, It continues and fits seamlessly after the previous book, Crusade and, I think, may well turn out to be the best of the series (though there’s only one more to go). Hereward’s descendants are still involved, but, of course, as the story moves on, there are fewer who actually knew him and his legend grows. Though, for all his multifarious exploits in foreign climes, as told in these books and James Wilde’s books, if you think about it, his exploits never seem to have reached back to England. There, there is still mystery and intrigue surrounding him – explained here and by James Wilde as the result of a pact made with King William, to cease the resistance, leave England and never come back.
I found no real fault in the quality of the writing, but I can imagine quite a few aficionados will. There’s a real fluid flow to the story, a sense of purpose and no one can argue he doesn’t know his way around a story, or how to tell it. If you take the time to think about the story, the people, the times, you could end up, as me, feeling quite affected by the concepts of loyalty to people and ideals, that are expressed here. I was very sad to finish the book. As in, there being a slight watering of the eyes, that people gave their own futures, for the futures of others (and theres no surprise he is a former soldier and teacher has also written books on WWI and WWII). People who put their own hopes and dreams to the side, for the sake of other people. Most poignant of all, the link to Harold, Hereward and what might have been on Senlac Hill if just five minutes had gone differently in 1066.
Say what you like about the writing, the books, they do inspire to maybe go find out more about the periods. If only to see if the people did really do all the things he has them doing. Anyway, quite apart from feeling proud that there were such men who called themselves Englishmen and were willing to lay down their lives, or change their lives, for the ideal of an England their children could be proud of.
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