The above link is the most beautiful review I have ever read for a book. That it happens to be mine is by the by - but I am so grateful and lucky to have had this lady review my book for my IndieBRAG Blog Tour
Here are some highlights of the review
"In the course of the novel readers learn of other familial secrets, seamlessly revealed by Lofting in her characters’ dialogue–knots that smoothly reveal themselves–and sudden, dramatic actions and events. Like the tapestry depicting the lives and meanings of their ancestors’ world, Lofting skillfully portrays that of the Horstedes in scenes otherwise reminiscent of a typical day or evening, yet with so much meaning infused within. As Ealdgytha, Wulfhere’s beautiful but unhappy wife awaits his return,
[p]art of her was missing. Somewhere in her mind she had closed a door, locking inside the thoughts she did not want to think and the feelings she could not bear to feel.[. . . ] Then, at hearth time, she sat by the fire, chatting quite animatedly away to Gunnhild about her new pregnancy.
This scene sewn into a tapestry would reveal little to an examiner, for who can see into hearts embroidered into material? Like the multitudes of others we encounter in passing each day, these people we might see, but what lives in their hearts and minds lay unknown to us even sadly, when we blow off the dust and bring our open hearts to the examination. Or perhaps, like Ealdgytha, we see something we recognize but wish to dismiss and carelessly toss the remnants of our ancestors into coffers and chests."
'Lofting has allowed us, too, to be passionate observers rather than passive ones, because she has brought to life an era shrouded in the mystery of the unknown. With such a distance as nearly a thousand years between “us” and “them,” we already sometimes echo the wretched Alfgar’s words of his own era, “What does it matter what she felt? [. . . ] as long as you are on the winning side [. . . i]n the end it is all the same.” And given the diversity of persona across the timeline, it can hardly be disputed there were some who treated even their own times thus. In diplomatic fashion, Lofting has given even such as Alfgar voice to speak to us, even at the risk he may be matted together with slave taking, “men so drunk they pissed where they stood” and “the torn body of a dead baby lying in the mud.” '
For more, click the link at the top. Its worth reading, even just to see Lisl Zlitin's genius!
very much for having me as a guest on your blog today, Paula. I hope to be
interesting about my debut novel The
Handfasted Wife and answer your interview questions with consideration for
You're welcome Carol. am very excited to have you here. Here goes then! I believe
this is your first novel, what inspired you to write a book about Edith
university I was a history teacher in London so I assumed that I knew a great
deal about The Battle of Hastings and
The Norman Conquest. Tasks my
students enjoyed were drawing their own vignettes inspired by The Bayeux Tapestry and reading ‘snippits’
from primary sources. I have always loved writing and was thrilled when I was
accepted for the Oxford Diploma in Creative Writing, a two-year evening course.
I had a radio play to write as part of
the course and a visit to Normandy with our village Twinning Association provided
the material for the play. The short film supporting the Tapestry at Bayeux
suggested that Edith Swan-Neck, King Harold’s common-law wife, identified his
body parts after the Battle of Hastings. When I began to research I found out
three other interesting facts. Gytha,
Harold’s mother, offered gold in return for his body(The Song of Hastings circa 1067/8). The Bayeux Tapestry showed a vignette of a woman fleeing a burning
house with a child just before the battle scenes. Some historians think this
could be Edith and her son Ulf who was taken as a child hostage into Normandy.Shockingly,
I discovered that Edith Swan-Neck, recorded in legends as the great love of
Harold’s life, was set aside in 1066 for a new political marriage. She was only
a hand-fasted wife. My play was to be about Edith Swan-Neck’s experience of
loss and disaster. This story haunted me so much that when I was accepted for a
PhD in Creative Writing at Royal Holloway, University of London, some years
later, I did not write the Dickensian novel I had planned, but instead returned
to the royal women of 1066. I wanted to tell a woman’s story, to make her live
and feel, and to provide readers with a sense of how battle, loss and change
could have affected her life.
Thanks Carol, that is a very moving thought. It must have been so traumatic to have to search for your man among the human carnage of battle. Although
this is a work of fiction, it is based on historical fact. How did you go about
marginalised on the Historical Record. Royal women only get a few lines. These
royal women had an interesting story. Since I was a research student I had
access to The Bodleian Library in Oxford. There I was able to sit in my dusty
corner day after day, exploring old chronicles, research papers, journals and a
heap of secondary material on the subject of The Norman Conquest. My starting
point was, in fact, The Waltham Chronicle, where I saw for myself the story
that Edith identified Harold’s body parts by marks only known to her. I read
everything I could in primary and secondary sources about Edith Swan-Neck,
Queen Edith, Harold’s sister, and Countess Gytha. Academic conferences, in
particular one on The Bayeux Tapestry at The British Museum, provided me with a
wealth of information, analysis and understanding concerning this marvelous embroidery. I used to embroider myself. Equally, I read everything I could
about life during this great period of change and,importantly, I kept organised
notes. As one experience and one book would
lead to another I felt as if time paused as I was teleported into a past world.
The more I learned the more I needed to explore further and so on. However, research
for a novel is the part of the iceberg that lies below the surface of the
water. It is the story that must take you, the readers, into the recreated
medieval world, so you have the illusion that you are experiencing life as it
might have been then. That is the magic of historical fiction.
Beautifully put Carol. Apart from
Edith Swan-Neck are there any other important female characters in your book
that you really like?
I love them
all but especially Gytha, Harold’s mother because she stood up to William at
Exeter and refused to hand over her dower city. What a presence and what
strength! She is dynamic and shows it. I imagine her shaking a stick with an
eagle’s head at her foes and ringing a little bell to summon her ladies.
Haha! Yes. I can imagine her being like that. What was the
most enjoyable aspect of writing The Handfasted Wife?
I rise early
to write and begin my day with an imagined world that I am creating. I find I
am movingcharacters around in my head, eves-dropping on their conversations,
feeling their sorrow and occasionally their joys too. The Handfasted Wife is an historical adventure brim-full of escape
and pursuit and it was a lot of fun to write. Of course, I frequently burned the
breakfast toast because I became so immersed in their world that I forgot our modern
Will we be
hearing anymore about Edith in future books?
In a word,
How exciting!What are you
working on now?
The Handfasted Wife is the first novel in my trilogy Daughters of Hastings. I am half way
through a first draft of the second book, Countess
of the North. This is the story of Gunnhild (Edith’s younger daughter) and
her elopement from Wilton Abbey in 1075. It is rooted in the historical record
and is a beautiful story to write. She is a very determined and feisty heroine.
Watch out for her! She will be coming your way soon.