Medieval Historical Fiction Novel of the Week

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Last English King - Julian Rathbone - Anglo Saxon England - Medieval England - Medieval History - Middle Ages History - Historical Fiction Novel Last English King by Julian Rathbone

Paperback: 400 pages
Publisher: Abacus Uk (August 3, 1998)
Average Customer Review on Amazon: 3.5 stars (19 reviews)

Editorial Review from Publishers Weekly

Though better known for his political thrillers, British writer Rathbone is also the author of several mainstream novels, two of which (Joseph and King Fisher Lives) were shortlisted for the Booker Prize. This richly detailed historical novel tells the story of the great Norman-Saxon battle of Hastings in 1066, as remembered by Walt Edwinson, or the Wanderer, one of King Harold Godwinson’s bodyguards. Battle scarred and numb, Walt is plagued with guilt for merely losing his hand and not his life when Harold is killed at Hastings. Instead of returning to the wife and child who desperately need him in Norman-ruled England, Walt condemns himself to wander, since his desire to live and return to his wife and home are what caused him to fail his King. In Byzantium, Walt encounters a traveling ex-monk and scholar, Quint (“nothing more, nothing less”), and together they embark on a vividly described journey through the medieval eastern end of the Mediterranean. Quint’s impressive knowledge of religion and philosophy and his anachronistic grasp of the tenets of modern psychology help fill in the blanks of the story that Walt recounts: of the reign of King Edward, the ascent of William the Bastard and King Harold and the historic battle for the throne of England. The story suggests that Walt at last finds redemption through the retelling, despite the novel’s tragic ending (revealed in the book’s first chapter), but Walt’s friendship with Quint also provides important consolation. Rathbone takes considerable historical liberties, writing in contemporary vernacular modern prose and painting King Edward as a man more interested in Harold’s fetching brother Tostig than in the sister, whom he is slated to marry. However, Rathbone defends his decisions convincingly in an author’s note, and his narrative presents an interesting interpretation of a tumultuous period in English history. (Nov.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. –This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Editorial Review from Library Journal:

For over 25 years, Rathbone has been producing political thrillers and was nominated for the Booker Prize twice. In his new novel, he takes us to England at a time when “the civilization of the English reached its zenithAit turned its back on the savagery of war and embraced hedonistic willingness to live as well as one can.” After losing his honor and his hands at the Battle of Hastings in 1066 while attempting to defend King Harold II of England against the invader, William of Normandy, Walt sets out on a personal pilgrimage across Europe. Joined in his self-imposed exile by Quint, a renegade, apostate monk, he tells his story of politics, intrigue, and battle as seen through the eyes of a king’s bodyguard. Rathbone’s spare style aptly expresses the horror of war and its aftermath. Anachronisms abound in this work and were deliberately included by the author. Some readers may be amused; others will find them a distraction. For larger historical fiction collections.AJane Baird, Anchorage Municipal Libs., AK
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. –This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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