Tuesday, July 05, 2011
Elizabeth Chadwick's Lady of the English
Lady of the English might be more aptly titled Ladies of the English, in that it focuses not only Matilda, daughter of Henry I and rightful heir to the throne, but also Henry's wife Adeliza. While the majority of the action centers on Matilda's abusive marriage to Count Geoffrey of Anjou and her bids to attain the throne that her father had made his vassals swear to uphold for her, Adeliza is no minor character. Her barren marriage to Henry and her piety, as well as her friendship for her headstrong step-daughter give a perfect counterpoint to the often unlikeable Matilda. Matilda herself is brought to life in a way that keeps her from being the shrew she's often portrayed; while it's evident that she could have done many things to ensure her position, it is also just as evident how strongly she felt for her country and her family. Ms. Chadwick does a very credible job with both women, as unlike in temperament as they were. Added to this story is the unbelievable actual history which occurred (constant side changing, incredible escapes, daring raids) and you've got an epic adventure.
Lady of the English is everything I'd hoped it would be, and my appreciation for Ms. Chadwick as an author who successfully uses true historical fact to create high quality fiction is unbounded. While I'd known something about Matilda, I definitely feel as though I've been brought closer to an elusive woman whose tenacity and courage still comes through across the centuries. I'm glad I chose to luxuriate in this story because my knowledge is richer for it. Bar none, Elizabeth Chadwick is writing the best British historical fiction today, and Lady of the English is highly, highly recommended.