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Chadwick writes amazing literary history, and I was keen to read this book. Set between 1066 and 1088, it tells the story of Alith, who is heavily pregnant. Her and her husband are thrilled to be having a child, but very soon after the birth, the Normans invade, and Alith loses her husband. This is an extremely well written introduction, which manages to show the war in a realistic light, and you immediately feel for Alith. She decides her life is not worth living, but her attempt to commit suicide is stopped by Rolf De Brize, who you soon realize is a serial womanizer.
In return for Rolf saving her, Alith and her daughter go to serve at his castle, but Rolf's soft spot for Alith is obvious and they are soon in love, and Alith finds herself pregnant with her second child, Julitta. Alith thinks her world is complete once more, until she realizes Rolf has a wife and daughter back in Normandy....
The second half of the book focuses on Julitta, who is reunited with her father after many years. While she is thrilled to see her father again, she is less thrilled to attend the wedding of Benedict, the man she loves, who is marrying her half sister. Especially as her sister loves the Church much more then her husband...Benedict obviously has some feelings too, as their celebrations get a little out of hand, which has huge consequences.
The ending is good, although I was intrigued by Chadwicks decision to allow both mother and daughter to fall for men that are unavailable. All the characters are wonderfully thought out, and very realistic. It's like having a new set of friends! The Medieval period is revived, and you almost feel like you are there, witnessing the drama and battles yourself.
For Christmas one of my parcels from my parents was a bag full of books, which included three Elizabeth Chadwick books. Elizabeth Chadwick is an author of historical fiction and being a fan of this style of book I was rather looking forward to reading one. The book I chose to read first was The Conquest and sat down to devour it from cover to cover. Unfortunately however the book just wasn't for me and although the premise of the book interested me I can't say I particularly enjoyed reading it.
== The Plot ==
Alith is married to Godwin and leading a very happy life. She has a loving husband who understands her and her own bit of independence. That is however until William the Conqueror rears his head from across the channel and Alith's world comes tumbling down. Within a year he husband and son have both been taken from her and her Norman neighbour and friend finds herself relying on Alith to provide sustenance for her child.
Alith's hate however is soon transformed into love when Rolf de Brize offers her a position on his estate. Their relationship bears a daughter but once again things don't quite as planned and in the aftermath of everything Alith discovers a betrayal that she simply cannot forgive.
Years later Julitta realises that her mother is not the only one to feel heartache and sorrow. Her life has been filled with anguish, from surviving a brothel to becoming trapped in a loveless marriage pining after her one true love yet she is still determined to find happiness. Her quest leads her to a colourful horse fair in Bordeaux and on to the terrors of piracy on the open sea.
== Opinion on the Plot ==
The plot itself is split into two sections, as you may be able to tell from the above description. Once section focuses on Alith and the other on the life of her daughter Julitta. On the whole the plot does stand quite firm and really does have its intriguing and interesting moments. Unfortunately these moments are however quite brief and although you find yourself wanting to learn more about one topic you quickly realise that that understanding is not going to come for a while and find yourself with nothing else to drive the plot forward in your mind. On reflection however I must say that the first half of the book is in my opinion much more readable than the second.
== Characters ==
The characters within this story are very well fleshed out and have a whole manner of characteristics; quirks and unique moments that make them stand out from one another. The way in which the characters lives have been written and developed is fantastic and is something that rather impressed me about the book.
Despite the fact that the plot can jump from place to place quite quickly it was more often than not rather easy to figure out who was who and where the action was taking place because of the fantastic character development. Without such grounded characters I think that the book could have been rather dry and definitely more difficult to follow.
== The History ==
The history used within the book is in my opinion rather good. I will admit that I am not a medieval historian in any way but know enough about the period to notice blatantly obvious incongruous things. The whole setting for the story is relatively grounded in the period and the author herself clearly has a strong awareness of clothing, food, transport and events of the period under discussion in the novel.
My only bug bear about the history within the book is the fact that in many places the historical context seems to much like a backdrop for the at times flashy plotline and this is something I am not fond of. For a historical novel to become a favourite of mine I like the history within it to be the driving point of the text rather than the story driving the history, which it sometimes seems to do in this book.
== The Writing Style ==
As you can see for my opinion of both the characters and the history within the novel, Chadwick clearly has a strong and fluid writing style. There is however one major problem with her writing as a whole and that is her insistence on detail where a lot of the time I felt that it really wasn't necessary.
Now you can call my naïve if you like or simply prudish if you want but her constant fascination with describe the sexual activities or her characters in detail was something I felt a little bit uncomfortable with. I know that these actions were at times important to the plotline but on many of the occasions where she seems to revel in the depiction of sex, it wasn't and the detail she felt it necessary to go into just seemed rather crude and over the top.
Like I have said you can call me what you want for this but I just didn't feel that it was necessary most of the time. On the whole however the novel does flow well but at times lacks a certain drive or spark that would make the prose feel alive and intrigue the reader. I think this combined with the abundance of sex descriptions within the novel is what caused the novel to have a lack of appeal for me.
== On the Whole ==
On the whole I can't say that I enjoyed reading this book because I didn't. The plot lacked drive and at times emotion too. As well as this the history was more of a backdrop than an intensive force and combining this with her superfluous descriptions I found it difficult to get drawn into the story being told.
I do however have another two Chadwick books left to go and so I am hoping against all hope that the next will be much better than this one and that hopefully this novel, being one of her earlier ones, is simply a blip in a literary collection of wonderful historical tales.
== Would I recommend ==
I have to say that no I wouldn't recommend this novel unless in depth tales of romantic encounters are your sort of reading. If not I'd leave this one well alone.