Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Elizabeth Chadwick

Have I waxed poetic on how much I love Elizabeth Chadwick's historical fiction on this blog? No?

I first heard about British author Elizabeth Chadwick several years ago when she was interviewed on The Word Wenches blog about her book The Greatest Knight, the first of her William Marshal books. Now, William Marshal is a famous historical figure of the English Middle Ages: a knight, Crusader, courtier and politician and solider to the early Plantagenet kings, advisor to the English kings, and eventually, the regent of the underage Henry III. He was there when Henry II's sons rebelled against him, he was an important figure while Richard the Lionheart was off Crusading, and he remained loyal to bad King John and was one of the signatories of Magna Carta.

But I'd not heard of him before coming across mention of Elizabeth Chadwick and her novels.

I read a history book on the Plantagenets recently and of course, William Marshal was mentioned and I may have squealed because Chadwick's William Marshal books and her other novels of real historical figures in the late 11th and 12th centuries are so compelling and rich and--although I'm far from a medievalist--her novels always feel authentic.

For example. I just finished Chadwick's second book in her Eleanor of Aquitaine trilogy, The Winter Crown. This novel is mainly about Eleanor of Aquitaine's life during her marriage to Henry II. Eleanor was Duchess of Aquitaine in her own right, so she was concerned with its governance, with grooming her heir Richard to be the next duke, but she was also concerned with maintaining Aquintaine's sovereignty away from Henry II's empire of England, Normandy, Anjou, and other parts of what we would call France.

Eleanor expresses the view that the world is tough for women, that being female in her sphere is to be a political pawn, and she resents it when Henry makes decisions about Aquitaine without consulting her--but none of this feels out of place for this character in her time. Her marriage was mostly for political reasons, so Eleanor isn't bothered when Henry has a bevy of mistresses whenever she's pregnant. It's only when he starts leaving her out of important events and he has the same mistress for a longer period of time and flaunts her in front of the court and their children that Eleanor is perturbed.

Plus, any time I think that research in my so far eighteenth and nineteenth century world is difficult, I read Elizabeth Chadwick's blog about reading pipe rolls written in Latin and researching things like the Crusades and the Templars and Magna Carta. In some cases, for some of the minor characters in her books, their exact dates of birth and death are unknown, the number of children couples had could be uncertain, and other details are sketchy.

I can't imagine constructing a story about a world that is so different to ours in so many ways, but hey, that's what Elizabeth Chadwick and others manage to do and do so well.

10 comments:

  1. The masters do it so well and sometimes make it look so easy. :-)

    Anna from elements of emaginette

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  2. I so appreciate people who can do research like that. The most amount of research I did for my last book was pulling up a blueprint and an online tour of a cemetery. Last time I researched the past, I got stuck in a hole and didn't finish the story. That wasn't why I quit, but the amount of things I had to research just to set part of the plot in the late 15th century was overwhelming. To me. Elizabeth probably eats that kind of research as a snack.

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    1. I think she does some reenactments of that period as well as well as piecing together people's movements from pipe rolls and charters and things--the bits and pieces we have from the medieval age. It's astounding and it all comes together in beautiful novels.

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  3. Agreed! Time periods are TOUGH to do, and the further back we go, the harder. I have one story that takes place in about 2000 BC, and whew! It's more speculation than historically based, but there are a few clues out there to guide the day to day living aspects.

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    1. Yup! Plus, Chadwick writes about real historical people most of the time, so there's an added responsibility to get it right in those instances. In restropsect, making up a story about three Victorian-era women is not that hard by comparison.

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  4. I absolutely love historical novel author who really do their research and bring the time to life. It makes all the difference in the world. I haven't read anything from Chadwick yet, but I'll have to mark him down.

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    1. She's brilliant--she's written quite a few.

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  5. I'm always in awe of authors who so deftly embrace a historical time period and write about it. It's not something I think I have the patience to pull off.

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    1. I'm sure it's not easy to do. My historical fiction is less about a whole time period and more about small chunks and fictional characters moving through their time periods and societies.

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Thank you so much for your comments and thoughts. Check back soon. I reply to all comments. Happy reading!