Wednesday, February 13, 2013
And then there’s the temptation to short-circuit the whole reading experience via Wikipedia. After a while I just really had to know whether Matilda would triumph so I looked it up. (To be honest I sort of already knew, never having actually heard of the great Queen Matilda* of England.) Then once I had read the whole article on Wikipedia, the rest of the story became kind of anticlimactic. Another battle for the men, another death in childbirth for the women, ho hum.
To be fair, Chadwick writes well and creates fully realized characters. Matilda and her husband Geoffrey of Anjou had a tumultuous marriage--she was ten years older and they married when he was still a teenager and she already a widow. Chadwick brings these characters to life; we cheer for Matilda, we have a love-hate thing with Geoffrey, and the supporting characters are quirky and memorable. If you like Philippa Gregory (who also is constrained by the historical record) then you should try Elizabeth Chadwick, who I think is a more interesting writer, and who writes about a less familiar period of history (okay, less familiar to U.S. readers).
*Matilda’s cousin Stephen, who stole her throne, was married to a woman named Matilda (so technically she was Queen Matilda) but that is a different Matilda. Apparently it was a very common name in the 12th century.
(Book 7, 2013)