Book Review – ‘Tombland’ by C.J. Sansom


C.J. Sansom 'Tombland'

Spring, 1549. Two years after the death of Henry VIII, England is sliding into chaos… The nominal king, Edward VI, is eleven years old. His uncle Edward Seymour, Lord Hertford, rules as Protector, presiding over a collapsing economy, a draining, prolonged war with Scotland and growing discontent amongst the populace as the old religion is systematically wiped out by radical Protestants. Matthew Shardlake, meanwhile, is a lawyer in the employ of Lady Elizabeth, the old King’s younger daughter. The gruesome murder of Elizabeth’s distant relative Edith Boleyn soon takes him and his assistant Nicholas Overton to Norwich where he is reunited with Overton’s predecessor Jack Barak. As another murder drags the trio into ever-more dangerous waters, Shardlake finds his loyalties tested as Barak throws in his lot with the exploding peasant rebellion and Overton finds himself prisoner in Norwich castle. Simultaneously, Shardlake discovers that the murder of Boleyn may have connections reaching into both the heart of the rebel camp and of the Norfolk gentry… [Description from Waterstones]

I really enjoyed this book, although the sheer length and weight of it put me off carrying it around in my bag as I normally would! I don’t think it is the best of the Shardlake books, but the characters carry it off, especially the interplay between Shardlake, Barak and Overton, and I also really liked Robert Kett as a character, though I didn’t really expect to, but I’m not entirely sure why, perhaps because of the way the rebellion has been portrayed from the viewpoint of the victors.

I love Matthew Shardlake and Jack Barak as characters, I always have, but in this one I also really liked Nicholas, which I didn’t in the previous book. The interplay between the three was fascinating as they traded views on the rebels, and on the Boleyn murder as well.

I was really intrigued by the murder of John Boleyn’s wife and the involvement of the Lady Elizabeth, although of course this is a fictional case. It’s clever the way that the murder case was intertwined with the Kett rebellion, and how they kept investigating the murder even while dealing with a rebellion and a war essentially. The fear and hope of this time comes across clearly, and you can feel the rising hope and then crushing disappointment of the rebels as their demands are rejected. It really adds a human touch to what is usually just reported in numbers.

It was also interesting to see the Kett rebellion from the point of view of the rebels, as the historical record largely looks at it from the victorious point of view of the royal forces. From a 21st century point of view what the rebels were asking for is what we would consider basic human rights now, but which had to be fought for in the 16th century, and I think these rebels came close to succeeding, had it not been for other rebellions over the religious settlement elsewhere in England. The author essay at the end of the novel adds some historical context to the events of the story, and clearly explains what is fact and what is fiction.

I will keep reading this series just because of the characters, because they are so well-rounded and there is always something that you can connect with, with at least one of the characters, and frankly I just love it!

Also published on my sister blog https://bookbloggerish.wordpress.com/

What were the Aims, Causes and Consequences of the Tudor Rebellions?


Lambert Simnel / Perkin Warbeck 1487-1499

Henry VII 1505 at the National Portrait Gallery.
Henry VII 1505 at the National Portrait Gallery.

The aims of the Simnel and Warbeck rebellions were to replace Henry VII on the English throne with what the people saw as the “true heir”.[1] Henry VII was a usurper, and the only Lancastrian claimant left since the death of Henry VI in 1471.

The cause of the Simnel and Warbeck rebellions was the fact that Henry VII was a usurper with no real claim to the throne. He had taken the throne from the Yorkist Richard III, who had usurped it from the rightful heir, the son of Edward IV – Edward V – and supposedly then had Edward and his younger brother, Richard, killed in the Tower of London. Henry’s claim to the throne came through his mother, Margaret Beaufort, who was descended from the illegitimate line of John of Gaunt and his mistress, Katherine Swynford. The Beaufort line had been legitimised but barred from succeeding to the throne.[2] The people of England weren’t entirely convinced that the Princes in the Tower were dead and, even if they were, the Earl of Warwick was another contender with a claim to the throne. Simnel pretended to be the Earl of Warwick, the son of Richard III’s elder brother, George Duke of Clarence.[3] Warbeck pretended to be Richard Duke of York, the younger of the Princes in the Tower.[4] Neither were entirely convincing. Continue reading “What were the Aims, Causes and Consequences of the Tudor Rebellions?”

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