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Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Time of Singing by Elizabeth Chadwick

Genre: Historical Fiction

Pages: 528

Copyright: 2008


In 1173, Roger Bigod is heir to the vast and powerful earldom of Norfolk When his treacherous father, Hugh, loses the family lands and castles in a rebellion against King Henry II, Roger finds himself in reduced circumstances and dogged by a bitter family dispute with his half brother over the remaining crumbs. Whilst trying to resolve the matter, he encounters Ida de Tosney, the King's young mistress. Seduced by Henry, Ida's gaze is now drawn to Roger in whom she sees a chance of lasting security beyond the fickle dazzle of the court. But she has to navigate a careful path between her dearest wishes and the King's reluctance to part with her. Every fulfilled wish has its price, and that price is losing the son she has borne to Henry. When King Richard comes to the throne, Roger is restored to his family's lands and becomes a great earl, and one of the richest men in England. He builds a great castle at Framlingham for himself and for Ida, but life is still riddled with uncertainty as Richard goes on crusade and the men left to govern the country quarrel their way into civil war. Ida struggles to come to terms with their new future...

England, 1173. Times are of rebellion, King Henry II's sons oppose him in his choice of successor and trying to secure their place and lands, decide to move against him, with the help of their mother, Eleanor of Aquitaine. Despite their efforts the King is victorious, and after imprisoning his wife, he deals out his sons' due punishment, completely crushing their rebellion.

Roger Bigod's relationship with his father, Hugh Bigod, 1st Earl of Norfolk, was never on good terms. They parted ways in 1173 when Roger decided to oppose his father and aid King Henry II against his own sons and wife, Eleanor of Aquitaine. Hugh Bigod ended up surrendering all his castles to King Henry II, after a terrible defeat, only managing to keep his earldom and surrounding lands, until his departure for Palestine and subsequent death in 1177. Roger's claim to his father's possessions and title was disputed by his greedy stepmother, Gundreda, and her two sons, Hugh Bigod and William Bigod. And this is where our story really begins!

Ida de Tosney was King Henry II's ward and is now his mistress, a position which many women aspire to but was somewhat forced on her. She lives with doubts about her uncertain future, what will become of her when the King chooses a new mistress? Who will want her now after she's been used? When Roger Bigod comes to court to present his case to King Henry II, he immediately catches Ida's eye, and although trying not to get involved with the King's mistress, Roger can't help but notice the lovely Ida. Seizing the opportunity to take possession of more lands and the county's third penny, the King decides not to settle the dispute and have Roger at his mercy and available to carry out his orders. Ida and Roger's relationship grows throughout the years and when it finally seems the King is ready to set them both free, the price may be too high!

The Time of Singing tells us the story of Roger Bigod, a gentle and honourable man, unlike most of his time, determined to get his father's lands back and to care for the woman he loves and their family. Although the book is supposed to center on Roger, we find ourselves spending more time in Ida's company, learning about her thoughts, her fears, her desires, waiting for Roger to return from yet another royal assignation. Most of the facts we learn about him are filtered through Ida's eyes, very rarely do we get to hear his own voice, get to know his strengths and weaknesses, for me he never quite stood out as his own character or became more than just a cardboard picture. Apart from this tiny complaint, I loved my first venture into Elizabeth Chadwick's world, the author manages to enchant us with her story weaving and it's as if we're placed right in the middle of the action. A quality not many authors share!

One of the characters who makes an appearance now and again is William Marshall, Roger Bigod's personal friend and one of the most interesting historical characters I've come across, every time he enters the scene he manages to completely obscure everyone else and has me swooning over him. Can't think of a better way to have me read The Greatest Knight as soon as possible!

If you like well researched historical fiction, a story that grabs you from the start and is never encumbered by too many details or a boring voice, something that has you rooting for the characters even if you know the outcome, you have to read Elizabeth Chadwick, she won't disappoint you when it comes to writing a great story!


Ana T. said...

Wonderful review Ana! I just finished The Greatest Knight and now I can't wait to start this one.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Ana! ;-) And I'll have to pick up The Greatest Knight, William Marshall was so interesting and I was only catching glimpses of him!

Teddyree said...

Wonderful review Ana, as I'm on a historical fiction run at the moment you have inspired me to return to my Elizabeth Chadwick shelf & read this one!

I have most of Elizabeth Chadwick's books but have only read 4 and loved them all. The Greatest Knight & The Love Knot were the best with The Wild Hunt coming pretty close.

Blodeuedd said...

Great review :)
I do love Chadwick but I was so disappointed in The Greatest Knight so I fear to read more

Ms. Lucy said...

I love this author-her work is fantastic..and this book sounds great. Thanks:)

Neas Nuttiness said...

Thanks for the review - this one is going on my must read list!

Anonymous said...

This looks good. I just love your reviews here.... I really have to link your blog.... this is such a great idea and I love that you are a group of reviewers.

I wish I had friends that would review with me! (I could get so much more reading done that way!) LOL

Connie said...

What a wonderful review! I have been looking for good, non-Philippa Gregory, non-Tudor, non-Anya Seton historical fiction for a long time so I'm eating these posts with a spoon. Thanks SO much!

-Connie @ Constance-Reader

Annie - Princess of the Past said...

This looks great Ana. I really should read Elizabeth Chadwick!

Anonymous said...

Bookjourney, it's wonderful to have friends to review with and discuss books, the only downside is the increasing size of your TBR pile. ;-)

Annie, this was my first Chadwick but from what I've heard her books are all wonderful. I think you'd enjoy her!

Anonymous said...

Very nice review! I really love that book cover too.