Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The Legend of Lady Godiva

The legend of Lady Godiva has captured the imagination of people for centuries. But it is only legend and there is some doubt that the story, and the way it has evolved, is completely accurate.

Lady Godiva was the wife of Leofric, Earl of Mercia. She was beautiful and known for her generous donations to churches and charities.

A tax so heavy, so burdensome, was imposed on the people of Coventry by Lady Godiva’s husband. It caused hardship, hunger, and poverty. She did her best to convince her husband and other nobles to repeal the tax, but to no avail. Tired of all the pressure she was exerting on him, he said he would grant her request if she rode through the streets of Coventry naked. Whether he said this in frustration or as a joke, Lady Godiva held him to his promise. She insisted that all townsfolk had to stay indoors with their windows shut. With her long hair carefully arranged around her body, she made her famous ride.

One person failed to honor her request to remain inside with the shutters closed. That was Peeping Tom. He makes a little hole in his shutters to spy on the beautiful lady as she rode past, but is struck blind when he does so.

Whatever the legend, throughout her life, Lady Godiva was a compassionate woman, wealthy, and who lavished numerous donations to churches and abbeys. Whatever the reason for her ride, it glimmers with courage, strength of will, and tremendous wit! Ride, lady ride. All for the good of the people! 

In the novel Godiva, by Nicole Galland, the author writes about this famous woman's life and the fascinating details of her ride.

Synopsis:

Nicole Galland, author of The Fool’s Tale, turns her clever pen toward re-imagining the famous legend of Lady Godiva in this expertly crafted historical novel set in Anglo-Saxon England.

A 12th-century noblewoman, Lady Godiva is infamous for riding naked through Coventry to relieve her people of her husband’s unfair and oppressive taxation. Leofric, Earl of Mercia, said he would ease the tax burden if she would ride through the streets, wearing only her glorious, long hair. In doing so she risked everything, including her home and well-being.

Told with humor and precise attention to detail, Nicole Galland’s Godiva brings to life the adventures of the legendary lady, her husband and her best friend the Abbess Egdiva in thrilling detail. It’s an entertaining tale of courtly intrigue, deceit, and romance that is sure to captivate fans of literary and historical fiction.

My Review:

Godiva by Nicole Galland. It is a novel meant to entertain. It’s a light, quick, read about the intriguing Lady Godiva who has been legendary in English history. It’s light on historical facts, but with just enough historical detail to bring the times to life.

I loved the simple way the introduction was written. It helped explain a complex history regarding the tax in elegantly simple prose. The book then opens with Godiva using her sexual prowess to put an end to a dispute between her husband and a neighboring lord. It tainted my expectations of Lady Godiva and made her seem more of a strumpet than a wise and strong wife. It also sent a warning bell ringing in my mind because it made me think the book would turn out to be like one of those all too common, inexpensive, bodice ripper romances. Lucikly, as the novel progresses, Lady Godiva is given a little more substance.

The novel was not encumbered with too many characters, so it was easy to read. I liked that very much. It allowed me to relax into the story without having to struggle to keep track of who is who. Much to my delight, the author introduced only those characters integral to the story.

My favorite subplot was that of Godiva’s friend, Abbess Egdiva and the troubles she got into. The brilliance of the book is the chapters that pertain to Lady Godiva’s naked ride. I thought that was writing at its very best, gripping, descriptive, emotional – it had it all.  

There are quite a few flaws in the historical details, but for those readers who are more into the story than the history of the times, this will not be a problem.

All in all, this was an interesting novel, not one of my favorites by this author, but good all the same. 
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