Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Lady of the English by Elizabeth Chadwick

I received a review copy of this novel from Sourcebooks. This in no way affected my opinions.

Another great medieval read from Elizabeth Chadwick. Lady of the English revolves around the lives of Empress Matilda, daughter of Henry I and her stepmother Adeliza of Louvain. Both different women, but both strong women.

Matilda is driven to secure the crown for herself and her heirs, and spends years fighting her cousin Stephen after her father's death. Adeliza, now remarried to William d'Albini, supports her stepdaughter's fight even while her husband is devoted to Stephen.

Matilda was a fierce woman who was way ahead of her time. I felt her annoyance over the double standard women had to face. This passage explains it perfectly:

They saw her as a member of the weaker sex, too soft to rule; yet when she showed a hard face and acted in a stern manner, they muttered that she was going against nature. Whatever she did, she was damned, and it led her to think damn them all too.

She was frustrated, yet intelligent, and knew that the crown for herself was lost. She then shifted her focus to her son Henry, building up support for him to be the next King.

Adeliza was a different woman, but no less strong. She was kind and patient. I loved that even though she loved her husband, her support for Matilda never wavered. Her devotion to family was strong, and Matilda was her family, too. Extremely loyal, Adeliza was also hindered by her gender. Even though she was once Queen, she had no say in anything.

There were a few small battles, but not much action. This was a story of people. And other than Matilda and Adeliza, I also loved Brian Fitzcount. He wasn't much of a fighter, and preferred to use the written word, but was a staunch supporter of Matilda. His story wasn't a very happy one, and he deserved better. Such was life.

Lady of the English was another great bout of storytelling. I learned about two really fantastic women I didn't know much about. Highly recommended.


Melissa @ Confessions of an Avid Reader said...

Good review. I enjoyed this one, too.

If you're interesting in reading more fiction about Matilda I highly recommend Sharon Kay Penman's When Christ and His Saints Slept (if you haven't already read it, that is).