IN A DARK WOOD WANDERING by Hella S. Haasse
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IN A DARK WOOD WANDERING

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KIRKUS REVIEW

First English translation of a historical epic about the Hundred Years War between France and England (1337-1453). Published in 1949 in the Netherlands, where it was a best-seller, Haasse's American debut is a long (572 pp.), vivid story especially crisp in its evocations of French royalty and blood feuds among the nobility. It's one of those grand tapestries that roam through time and space and bring alive a host of characters: French King Charles VI, who has an occasional ""brief respite between periods of insanity"" in a country where royal power is in eclipse; his icy Bavarian Queen Isabeau; his brother Louis (Duke of Orleans), who is eventually murdered; and Louis' Italian Duchess Valentine, who dies quickly thereafter. The Duke's son Charles comes to dominate much of the narrative when he inherits the dukedom. There are numerous political intrigues, bloodlines, rivalries (especially between the Burgundians and Armagnacs), and the epoch's social background is richly rendered, ranging from feudal lords and Parisians to peasants. The scene occasionally shifts to England and its turmoils, especially when the Duke of Orleans is taken prisoner at Agincourt by Henry V. Political intrigue continues, and eventually Orleans returns to his homeland, but there is a sense of power passing from royalty to merchants and to the cities. Charles' long exile in England has made him a kind of mystic, interested in wisdom instead of the illusion of power and politics, and he has the last word--at the point of death--as he ""plunged forward to meet the light."" Decisive in its lines of psychological force, this compelling fiction brings to dramatic life one of the most significant conflicts--and several of the more striking personalities--in French and English medieval history. Rich and entertaining.

Pub Date: Oct. 7th, 1989
Publisher: Academy Chicago