Book Review – ‘The Western Wind’ by Samantha Harvey


The Western Wind by Samantha Harvey

15th century Oakham, in Somerset; a tiny village cut off by a big river with no bridge. When a man is swept away by the river in the early hours of Shrove Saturday, an explanation has to be found: accident, suicide or murder? The village priest, John Reve, is privy to many secrets in his role as confessor. But will he be able to unravel what happened to the victim, Thomas Newman, the wealthiest, most capable and industrious man in the village? And what will happen if he can’t? Moving back in time towards the moment of Thomas Newman’s death, the story is related by Reve – an extraordinary creation, a patient shepherd to his wayward flock, and a man with secrets of his own to keep. Through his eyes, and his indelible voice, Harvey creates a medieval world entirely tangible in its immediacy. [Description from Waterstones] 

I was really looking forward to reading this book when it was chosen as our Book Club read for March 2019, but I was disappointed in it, which I hate saying, but it’s true. It sounded right up my street – a Tudor-set murder mystery. 

What disappointed me most was the characterisation. I really wanted to like John Reve and Herry Carter, but I couldn’t seem to feel anything for them, or any of the other characters. However, some members of the book group loved it (though they were in the minority). One friend commented that she listened to the story on audiobook and really enjoyed it, partly because of the narrator, so I don’t know if it would be better if someone else was reading it; if that made it easier to get into. 

I also got quite annoyed by the way the story was told. The story happens over four days, but it is told backwards, from the fourth day back to the first, which can get confusing, and actually stopped me getting as involved as the story as I like to do with a good book, because I was constantly having to re-focus when I reached a new day. The ending was also a bit of a letdown because it just stopped, rather than having an epilogue, which I felt would have been a boon to tie back into the beginning of the novel, which is the end of the mystery (if that makes sense!). 

I think the story itself had potential, but that potential wasn’t reached, possibly because of the characterisation, or the way in which the story was told back to front. It felt forced at times, as though the author didn’t really know what to fill the gaps with. I was interested in the portrayal of religion throughout the novel, as I think a lot of books with a focus on religion or placed during the Reformation when Henry VIII uprooted the church, so it was interesting to get such an in-depth look at religion before these changes took place, as I think that is less explored.  

I wouldn’t recommend this if you’re looking for something light, but it is interesting for a more in-depth read, especially if you have an interest in Catholicism in England before the Reformation, as it is quite heavy on religion in a lot of places. 

This will also be published on my sister blog https://bookbloggerish.wordpress.com/

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Book Review – ‘Bloody Mary: Tudor Terror 1553-1558’ by Phil Carradice


Phil Carradice - Bloody Mary Tudor Terror

Phil Carradice, Bloody Mary: Tudor Terror 1553-1558 (Barnsley: Pen and Sword Books, 2018) ISBN 9781526728654

Thank you to Pen and Sword Books for the chance to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

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I was pleasantly surprised when I saw how short this book was, that it managed to cram in so much detail. There are so many little details throughout the book that I didn’t expect. It’s a great introduction to the reign of Mary I, and especially her role in the Catholic Counter-Reformation in England in the 1550s. There is lots of detail about the Protestant martyrs of her reign who I didn’t really know much about to be honest, but I do now!

I especially enjoyed the introductory section about Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, and the section about Thomas Cranmer’s recantation and execution. John Foxe’s book lists many of the people who were killed under Mary I as Protestant martyrs, and their beliefs and executions are covered in a surprising amount of detail. I haven’t yet got around to reading Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, just dipping in and out for assignments and blog posts, but this makes me want to spend more time with it.

Continue reading “Book Review – ‘Bloody Mary: Tudor Terror 1553-1558’ by Phil Carradice”

Discussion Questions – ‘The Last Tudor’ by Philippa Gregory


Philippa Gregory 'The Last Tudor'

  1. What role do faith and religion play during the time period represented in The Last Tudor? What is the relationship between religion and politics, and how does this relationship affect the cultural climate of England? Is the country mostly united in their faith or divided? What impact does this have on the royals of England?
  • After the Henrician Reformation, there was the mid-Tudor crisis, already with differences of faith across England.
  • Edward VI was a devout Protestant as he had been raised, Mary I was a devout Catholic as her mother Katherine of Aragon had been, and Elizabeth I looked for a middle way in religion having seen the chaos of her brother’s and sister’s reigns.
  • Edward VI altered his Device for the Succession to stop Mary I succeeding to the throne and returning the English church to Rome.
  • Politics was based on religion – generally people who supported Edward VI and Jane Grey were protestant, and those who supported Mary I were Catholic, although Mary I did at first also attract the support of protestants as the real claimant to the throne by Henry VIII’s will.
  1. What is “the true religion” according to Lady Jane Grey? Why does Jane believe that she and her family do not need to earn their place in heaven as others do? Does her faith ultimately serve her well? Discuss.
  • Jane Grey believes the true religion is protestant – each is influenced in religion in the way that they were raised.
  • Protestants believe in pre-destination – that it is already decided whether you go to heaven or hell before you’re even born and you can’t influence that through good works.
  • Good works leading to heaven is a Catholic doctrine.
  • Jane Grey relies on her faith and it ultimately helps her to die, but she wouldn’t have been in that situation in the first place if she wasn’t staunchly Protestant.
  • Edward VI settles the succession on Jane Grey because she is Protestant, rather than his Catholic half-sister Mary I.

Continue reading “Discussion Questions – ‘The Last Tudor’ by Philippa Gregory”

Elizabeth I Episode 2 Starring Lily Cole


Episode 2 – The Enemy Within, aired 16.05.2017

Elizabeth I c.1563 Hampden portrait by Steven van der Meulen
Elizabeth I c.1563 Hampden portrait by Steven van der Meulen

Aged 25 Elizabeth is queen but not safe

1559 Elizabeth crowned queen, but her path to power had been a long battle

She had survived but could never drop her guard

War was raging across Europe as Catholics and Protestants tore each other apart – Elizabeth was plunged into the middle of the battle

Elizabeth most powerful protestant monarch surrounded by catholic enemies

 

Privy council believed Elizabeth needed to marry

Elizabeth declared she was already married to England – sounded great, but just words

Queen had a good reason for not wanting to wed – would reduce her power, wanted to be a real queen not queen in name only

Understandable but left a huge problem – who would rule if she suddenly died?

Continue reading “Elizabeth I Episode 2 Starring Lily Cole”

She Wolves – Episode 3 – Jane Grey, Mary I and Elizabeth I 21.03.2012


Edward VI by William Scrots 1550.
Edward VI by William Scrots 1550.

1553 only heirs to the Tudor throne were women – next three monarchs would be women
6 July 1553 Greenwich Palace Edward VI was the only son of Henry VIII and he died – political crisis as no one left to claim the title King of England
Women were not equipped to rule – weaker, more sinful, less rational, unable to fight or make law
Women who tried to take power were seen as unnatural or monstrous
English crown had always been worn by a man
Henry VIII had gone to extreme lengths to have a son to succeed him – declared his daughters bastards after getting rid of their mothers
Henry’s hopes rested on his son’s shoulders
His heir wasn’t clear – uncertain future, two half-sisters and seven cousins, but all of them were women
Which woman would it be?
Mary and Elizabeth knew that under Henry VIII’s will the crown should pass first to Mary then to Elizabeth if Edward died without heirs.
Edward VI was a protestant and Mary I a Catholic Continue reading “She Wolves – Episode 3 – Jane Grey, Mary I and Elizabeth I 21.03.2012”

Spotlight: Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk


Name: Thomas Howard

Title/s: 3rd Duke of Norfolk / Earl of Surrey / Earl Marshal / Knight of the Garter

Birth / Death: 1473 – 25 August 1554

Spouse: Anne of York 1475-1511 / Elizabeth Stafford c.1497-1558

Children: Thomas Howard c.1496-1508 (by Anne of York) / Henry Howard Earl of Surrey c.1516-1547 / Mary Howard Duchess of Richmond 1519-1557 / Thomas Viscount Howard 1520-1582 / Muriel Howard (died young) / Katherine Howard ?-1530 (by Elizabeth Stafford)

Parents: Thomas Howard 2nd Duke of Norfolk 1443-1524 & Elizabeth Tilney c.1445-1497 Continue reading “Spotlight: Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk”

Witchcraft and the Reformation


 

Title page of the seventh Cologne edition of the Malleus Maleficarum, 1520 (from the University of Sydney Library)
Title page of the seventh Cologne edition of the Malleus Maleficarum, 1520 (from the University of Sydney Library)

Witch-hunts were irrevocably tied in to the Reformation. Both Catholic and Protestant countries had cases, but they increased in number during the pivotal period of the Reformation. This was the second half of the sixteenth century. James Sharpe claimed that witchcraft operated ‘within the context of the reformation and counter-reformation’.[i] Witchcraft did not become a major factor in people’s lives until the Reformation, and it died out as the religious situation across Europe settled down and stabilised. In England, for example, the last person executed for witchcraft was Jane Wenham in 1712.[ii] This was a time when England was settled and unified with Scotland. It was probably the most peaceful time to be English.

In some Catholic countries, like Italy, Spain and Portugal, there were actually relatively few witch trials. However, Pope Sixtus IV still felt that the danger was enough to warrant him approving an Inquisition to deal with them.[iii] However, Pope Alexander IV explicitly stopped an Inquisition from dealing with witches as early as 1258. This was possibly because the Church still had its power, whereas in the later period that power was slowly slipping away. The Inquisition, although originally allowed to deal with Jews and Moors in Spain, widened out to include heresy like Protestants, and then witches. Continue reading “Witchcraft and the Reformation”

Timeline of the Scottish Reformation


 

John Knox 1572.
John Knox 1572.

1514 – Probable date of birth of John Knox.

1536 – Knox is ordained as a priest.

1542 – James V dies and is succeeded by his daughter, Mary Queen of Scots.

James V dies and his successor is his first daughter, Mary, who becomes Mary Queen of Scots. The Stuarts were known for being Catholics, and that is partially why Henry VIII didn’t wish for the succession to pass to the children of his sister Margaret (the mother of James V). Mary was only a year old when she succeeded to the throne and at one point there were plans to marry her to the future Edward VI of England.

1543 – Knox converts to Protestantism.

1545 – Knox becomes an associate and bodyguard to George Wishart.

1546 – Wishart is executed / martyred. Continue reading “Timeline of the Scottish Reformation”

Timeline of the English Reformation


 

Anonymous portrait of Prince Arthur, son of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York c.1501.
Anonymous portrait of Prince Arthur, son of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York c.1501.

1501 – Katherine of Aragon marries Prince Arthur of England.

1502 – Prince Arthur dies.

1504 – Pope Julius II annuls marriage of Katherine and Arthur.

1509 – Henry VIII succeeds to the throne and marries Katherine of Aragon:-

Katherine testified that her marriage to Arthur was never consummated, and so a dispensation was granted to allow her to marry Henry. The matter of consummation was later a central issue in the divorce.

1516 – Princess Mary (later Mary I) born.

1517 – Luther posts his 95 theses on a church door in Wittenburg in Germany, formally beginning the Protestant Reformation in Europe:- Continue reading “Timeline of the English Reformation”