Monday, April 23, 2012

"Queen Of The Conqueror: The Life of Matilda, Wife Of WIlliam I" by Tracy Borman

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  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Bantam (April 3, 2012)
  • ISBN-13: 978-0553808148
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.5 x 1.4 inches 
When I heard that Tracy Borman was releasing a new title I had to pre-order it right away. I has so enjoyed her earlier work , "Elizabeth's Women" (I ordered if from Amazon UK so that I would not have to wait for the US release!) that I had high hopes for "Wife of The Conqueror" - and I was, happily, not disappointed!

Many of us have read a book about William , or at least know about who he was and what his claims to fame are, but few of us know much about his Queen, the very first Queen of England, Matilda, who wielded as much power as any women of the time, acting as regent in Normandy whilst William was about the business of conquering England. Matilda was the backbone of her family and she is largely responsible for fostering an environment of understanding and cooperation after William conquered England, deflecting tensions and skirmishes with a deft hand.

Ms. Borman has sifted through "historical artifacts and documents" to compile an excellent, highly enjoyable, biography of this truly unique women.  Matilda was diminutive at 4 feet 2  inches tall but she had the intellect and courage of any man of her time. 

From the jacket: "...this mother of 9, including four sons who went on to inherit William's French and English dominions, confounded the traditional views of women in medieval society by seizing the reins of power whenever she had the chance, directing her husband's policy, and at times flagrantly disobeying his orders..."

I think that Ms. Borman has the ability to sift through historical documents and collate the information - presenting a biography that is at once both easy to read as well as packed with significant historical notes. The reader gets a clear image of the people and the times. The reader absorbs the history lessons  easily because the book is so well written.

I believe that this book will delight anglophiles, history buffs and biography readers, but it may also well hold the interest of people who are primarily historical fiction readers - because the book reads so well. Yes! I highly recommend this book. Bravo Ms. Borman!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

'Winter King' by Thomas Penn

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  • Hardcover: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster (March 6, 2012)
  • ISBN-13: 978-1439191569
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.3 x 1.6 inches 
I have to admit to being a history geek. For me, history is alive and energizing - not something static and remote. My obsession is European history from the 12th through 17th centuries - especially British history - so of course, when I was offered the chance to review this book, my interest was piqued immediately.

I had not read too terribly much about Henry VII in the past and, with this book, Thomas Penn, brings this most important of English monarch to life in a very enjoyable fashion. There is nothing pedantry about this book. It is detailed to be sure but the details add to the read - they don't detract from the flow of the book as can become an issue with some dry historical missives. This book is lively, enthralling, detailed and enjoyable!

"Winter King" has put some of the names and historical circumstances into prospective for me. Although Henry VII was a power house of a monarch it is his son, Henry VIII, who generally gets most of the press. I learned more about the man who became the King; how he managed to cling to the monarch in a very uncertain time, how he found his way through a mire of intrigues & plots to depose him, and how, it is my impression, he was the King who really was spymaster. Mentally agile, intelligent, ruthless, thoughtful and canny, Henry VII is an engrossing historical character and this book is a winner!

Yes! I heartily recommend it for other history obsessives or Tudor fans. Well done!