LADY OF HAY by Barbara Erskine


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A cumbersome first novel about an English journalist who discovers she's led a past life as a 12th-century Welsh princess. Jo Clifford is a cynical, highly successful London journalist who has decided to do a series of articles on hypnosis--a practice she is sure she will debunk. Imagine her surprise, then, when she gets herself put under and discovers that she's lived before--as the beautiful Matilda, Lady of Hay, wife of the brutal Lord William de Braose. As Matilda, Jo watches de Braose's massacre of Welsh nationals (part of an English scheme to subjugate the country) in 1174. She comes back to the present screaming, but eventually decides to put herself under again (and again) to find out what happens to Matilda. In the meantime--and quite unbelievably--it turns out that the three 20th-century men who are in love with Jo also lived in the 12th century: photographer Tim Heacham is her gentle lover, Richard, Earl of Clare; while brothers Nick and Sam Franklyn are King John and gruff hubby de Braose, respectively. In the 12th-century material here, there's a serviceable historical in which Matilda--a highly independent woman for her day--bears children, has her affair with Richard, allows herself to be taken hostage to save her family, and finally crosses King John and is murdered by him (along with her young son) in 1212. But Erskine's attempt to play mix and match with the past and present is gimmicky and enormously unconvincing. In all: overlong and overwritten, and a waste of a more than adequate little historical.

Pub Date: June 19th, 1987
Publisher: Delacorte