When I took up this book to start reading about the life of Henry II – and it’s a lovely object in itself: just look at that cover – I have to admit to being slightly discombobulated by the sheer number of Mathildas and volume of family trees and maps with arrows. It didn’t help that Certain People appeared to give the same name to their illegitimate and legitimate sons! But Gold’s careful hold on her material and confident narration meant that it wasn’t as challenging to pick through this now little-known reign as I feared.

Structuring the book into five “acts” (The Bargain, Triumph, Pariah, Rebellion, Nemesis) means that Gold takes us on a vaguely chronological journey, but because of the complexities of lands held, battles fought, marriages forged and families created, she does have to skip back and forth a bit, referring to the Great Revolt of 1173-74 before she describes it fully. In addition, there’s such a wealth of detailed information to share that she sometimes has to divert into a long discussion of the Jews in England, the creation of a more modern legal system, the relationship between the Saxon and Norman kings and their archbishops, etc. … it’s to her credit that these are well-signposted, headed and created and not confusing.

Read the rest of my review on the Shiny New Books website here.

I read this one last month, so it’s nice to see it up there now.

In other booky news, I’ve finished the rather odd “Peking Picnic” by Ann Bridge and hope to review it tomorrow, and I’ve started Diana Tutton’s rather marvellous “Guard Your Daughters”. I might get 20BooksOfSummer done after all.