by Anya Seton ‧ RELEASE DATE: Nov. 8, 1965
Ambitious in scope is this historical novel from the author of The Winthrop Woman (1958) and Devil Water (1962). Again her work is characterized by a sturdiness of historical detail, a strong and simple story line that works its way through the length of the book-with diminishing force and more determination than persuasiveness. While lacking in characterization (Miss Seton becomes abrupt with her persons and at times leaves them when they are most in need of her) and dramatization, it possesses an insistent immediacy that cannot be dismissed. Her story is set in England during the last quarter of the 10th century, when Saxons and Danes warred and Viking raids ravaged its outposts. Proceeding to King Edgar's court, Romieux de Provence, noble born with the blood of King Alfred and Charlemagne in his veins, is shipwrecked on the Cornish coast, where he meets Merewyn, who believes she is descended from King Arthur. It is Rumon's burden to maintain this fiction when he knows she is the product of a Viking foray; he promises' her dying mother to take her to Glastonbury. Merewyn becomes a lady to the wicked Queen Alfrida, who bewitches Rumon, and much of the book is taken up with the bloody proceedings of succession by murder at the English court. By the time Rumon realizes his love for Merewyu, she, who had loved him, is lost to him, borne off by her true father, the Viking Ketil, and married to Sigurd. She lives first in Iceland, then, when Eric the Red proposes to settle Greenland, in that ill fated community. At the last, widowed, she returns to England, where Rumon has taken the vows of a Benedictine monk, remarries, and acknowledges publicly her true parentage. Stylistic hash, with banal dialogue, willfully constructed characters, and scant formal conceptualization, this still has a certain vigor and historical grasp. Anya Seton is a past mistress of the form; her present performance, while lacking in taste has a tenacity that may overcome the ailments of a genre generally fading from popular favor.
Pub Date: Nov. 8, 1965
Page Count: -
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
Review Posted Online: N/A
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1965
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