I purchased this book for review as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team.
The Confessor’s Wife is an engaging tale of the wife of Edward the Confessor. Edith of Wessex , daughter of Godwin, the Earl of Wessex, spends her early years in a household with two older brothers, Harold and Sweyn, and a beloved younger brother, Tostig. Her father, knowing that she must make a good marriage in support of her family, sends her as a teenager to the royal abbey of Wilton. There she is to be educated in the running a household, along with the artly skills of the high-born and with fluency in various languages. Despite her despair at having to leave her home, she find a friend in Aethel, also the daughter of a nobleman but who has taken her vows as a nun, and also in the Abbess. After years, during which she comes to feel at home at the abbey, her brother Sweyn, a pompous, self-centered man, comes to retrieve her. She is to be married – to Edward, the King of England.
Edith’s nemesis in her marriage is her mother-in-law, Emma, who despises Godwin and his family, believing Godwin is responsible for her oldest son’s death. Edith finds herself in an untenable situation – married to an older man, hated by her mother-in-law who thwarts her at every turn, and her family obligations. She must prove herself worthy to all of them.
In time, her relationship with Edward becomes respectful and deeply caring, yet she bears him no children – a cause for a man to cast his wife aside. Royal politics sway this way and that, and at one point Edith is sent back to the abbey, when her family falls from grace. And yet Edward does not remarry.
How does she navigate the political waters that swirl around the king? How can she ensure the promotion of her family’s men to the highest offices in the land, and help raise her brother to the throne? And how can she do this, when criticized over many years for being a barren wife?
Kelly Evans has taken a woman who is little more than a footnote in history and created a story around her that makes her real and emphasizes the perils of a queen in that period.
I had not known of Edith prior to reading this book and had barely heard of King Edward the Confessor, so the history of the story fascinated me. The strength of the author’s writing is definitely in the dialogue, which gives three-dimensionality to the speakers and had me drawn in from the beginning. I felt the love of Edith for her brother Tostig, even when he proved feckless and disloyal, her dislike of the ceaselessly critical Sweyn, and her tolerance of the scheming Emma and her simpering mother, Gytha.
While much less descriptive than the writings of other authors of historical fiction – and there were times when I absolutely yearned for more detail – the dialogue kept me reading. The author made Edith’s life and the obstacles she face very real despite the sparseness of the background elements. There were a few lapses into modern expressions, which brought me up, but not enough to drag me away!
The author has written several other historical novels. One of them is The Northern Queen about Edith’s mother-in-law, Emma. I think readers of historical fiction will enjoy this book, and I am definitely interested in reading The Northern Queen.
About the author (Amazon)
Kelly Evans was born in Canada of Scottish extraction and graduated in History and English from McMaster University in Ontario, Canada. After graduation, she moved to the UK where she worked in the financial sector and continued her of history, focusing on Medieval England and the Icelandic Sagas.
She now lives in Toronto, Canada with her husband Max and two rescue cats, retiring after twenty years to write full time. She’s a voracious reader and enjoys history, music (she plays the medieval recorder), and watching really bad horror and old sci-fi movies. To that end, she has written books featuring zombies and the walking dead.
She’s currently working on my next novel, The Beggar Queen, set in Merovingian France.
You can find Kelly Evans
On her website: https://kellyaevans.com/
On twitter: @ChaucerBabe
And The Confessor’s Wife on Amazon