Thursday, June 17, 2010

Peaceweaver by Judith Arnopp

“The old people used to say that three women, known as the Norns, wove human fate. They sat in the roots of a great, spreading tree, spinning the fragile threads of destiny into the complex fabric of life. When they grew peeved they worked misfortune and despair into the pattern. I sighed. My own fate trailed behind me like a worn petticoat, patched and mended with good intentions. What, I wondered, would those three women make of my future.” – Queen Eadgyth, Peaceweaver

History often recalls the hand-fasted wife of Harold Godwinson, last King of the Saxons, but little is known about his queen, Eadgyth, daughter of Earl Aelfgar of Mercia. She was a descendant of the Lady Godiva of Coventry legend, and the child-bride of a Welsh King before becoming Harold’s queen. Author Judith Arnopp has weaved a wonderful tale of Eadgyth’s life, interspersing fact, and fiction. Her meticulous research and unique storytelling made Peaceweaver a delightful read. Judith Arnopp has graciously agreed to give away a copy of the book to one of our blog visitors.

When Eadgyth’s father barters her to the Welsh King, Gruffydd ap Llewellyn, she endures exile in an alien world with only her loyal servant Anwen for comfort. She submits to Gruffydd’s cold and cruel attentions, and bears children for a husband more than twice her age. But sons are not the only joy of Eadgyth’s life, when she finds a forbidden love. As unexpected as it is, another drastic change comes when her husband learns of the affair, just before his downfall.

Swept away to England by the charismatic Harold Godwinson, Eadgyth enters the English court of Edward the Confessor. Harold’s unabashed pursuit of her re-awakens a love she never thought to feel again, but specters of Harold's past always intrude on their happiness. On the eve of Hastings, Eadgyth risks her safety to be by the side of a man she never thought she would love, as he faces the greatest threat his kingdom has ever known.

Author Judith Arnopp

The period before the Norman Conquest of 1066 is a long-time favorite of mine. I found many things remarkable about Peaceweaver, the most important being that Queen Eadgyth was so young during this tumultuous period in England. She must have been a remarkable woman to bear the attentions of her first husband, and survive the difficult reign of her second husband. In the first twenty-one years of her life, she saw dramatic changes and lived through them. I was also surprised at how much this story touched me. In Peaceweaver, the love between the central characters is devout and palpable, and all of the characters, both real and invented, are fully fleshed out. In particular, Ms. Arnopp has made Harold Godwinson come alive on the page, a brave but flawed man. Although I know the story of his death as well as any English school child taught about Hastings, it always makes me very sad to read about it. Reading it from the perspective of his young queen was at times heartbreaking, but always a joy.

Don't forget: Please leave a comment to win a copy of Peaceweaver!

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