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Hild
by Nicola Griffith

Overview -

A brilliant, lush, sweeping historical novel about the rise of the most powerful woman of the Middle Ages: Hild
In seventh-century Britain, small kingdoms are merging, frequently and violently. A new religion is coming ashore; the old gods are struggling, their priests worrying.  Read more...


 
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More About Hild by Nicola Griffith
 
 
 
Overview

A brilliant, lush, sweeping historical novel about the rise of the most powerful woman of the Middle Ages: Hild
In seventh-century Britain, small kingdoms are merging, frequently and violently. A new religion is coming ashore; the old gods are struggling, their priests worrying. Hild is the king's youngest niece, and she has a glimmering mind and a natural, noble authority. She will become a fascinating woman and one of the pivotal figures of the Middle Ages: Saint Hilda of Whitby.
But now she has only the powerful curiosity of a bright child, a will of adamant, and a way of seeing the world--of studying nature, of matching cause with effect, of observing her surroundings closely and predicting what will happen next--that can seem uncanny, even supernatural, to those around her.
Her uncle, Edwin of Northumbria, plots to become overking of the Angles, ruthlessly using every tool at his disposal: blood, bribery, belief. Hild establishes a place for herself at his side as the king's seer. And she is indispensable--unless she should ever lead the king astray. The stakes are life and death: for Hild, for her family, for her loved ones, and for the increasing numbers who seek the protection of the strange girl who can read the world and see the future.
Hild is a young woman at the heart of the violence, subtlety, and mysticism of the early Middle Ages--all of it brilliantly and accurately evoked by Nicola Griffith's luminous prose. Working from what little historical record is extant, Griffith has brought a beautiful, brutal world to vivid, absorbing life.

 
Details
  • ISBN-13: 9780374280871
  • ISBN-10: 0374280878
  • Publisher: Farrar Straus Giroux
  • Publish Date: November 2013
  • Page Count: 546


Related Categories

Books > Fiction > Historical - General

 
Publishers Weekly Reviews

Publishers Weekly® Reviews

  • Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
  • Review Date: 2013-06-24
  • Reviewer: Staff

Award-winning LGBT author Griffith brings a sci-fi appreciation for alien culture and a woman’s perspective to this fictional coming-of-age story about real-life Saint Hilda of Whitby, who grew up pagan in seventh-century Britain. Daughter of a poisoned prince and a crafty noblewoman, quiet, bright-minded Hild arrives at the court of King Edwin of Northumbria, where the six-year-old takes on the role of seer/consiglieri for a monarch troubled by shifting allegiances and Roman emissaries attempting to spread their new religion. Eventually Hild is baptized along with Edwin—a scene Griffith depicts as less about spirituality than pomp and politics. Puberty’s sexual awakening soon follows, propelling Hild toward her slave girl, then the former girlfriend of Hild’s longtime boyfriend, Cian, who teaches Hild swordsmanship and other manly skills. Britain in the years after Rome is a relatively undiscovered country for historical fiction. Griffith goes boldly into the territory, lingering over landscape, wallowing in language, indulging the senses, mixing historical fact with feminist fiction in a sweeping panorama of peasants working, women weaving, children at play, and soldiers in battle: the Dark Ages transformed into a fantasy world of skirt and sword. Agent: Stephanie Cabot, The Gernert Agency. (Nov. 12)

 
BookPage Reviews

A Middle Ages heroine, brought to life

In the tradition of Mary Renault, Sigrid Undset and, more recently, Hilary Mantel, novelist Nicola Griffith recreates the past in Hild, a lively look at the girl who would become Saint Hilda of Whitby, one of the key figures of early Christianity.

Hild was born in 614, the niece of one of England’s most powerful tribal kings. Little is known about her early life, though the story is that her mother was told in a dream that she would give birth to the light of the world. Hild was part of the king’s court when the entire household was baptized as Christians in 627. Twenty years later, she became the abbess of one of the most notable religious communities in Europe, counselor to kings and a teacher of bishops.

The novel begins with the death of Hild’s father when she was three, and ends when she is 19, well before she became an abbess. Griffith’s young Hild is perceptive, canny and thoughtful. Fulfilling the prophecy of her birth, she becomes a seer and advisor to her uncle. She is quick to understand the value of literacy, the impact of trade routes and the power behind the new religion. Her observations of the natural world lead her to understand what motivates those around her. She forms relationships easily with the common folk, developing networks of loyal followers.

Medieval England was a complex landscape of warring dynasties and vicious politics, and is probably less familiar to the reader than the court of Henry VIII or even Alexander the Great’s Macedonia. Griffith has clearly immersed herself in this world to bring it to life for the reader—the politics, languages, occupations as well as the food, dress and drink—and this extensive research occasionally threatens to overtake the characters. But the details are engrossing, and her depiction of a young woman whose actions would change history is a compelling one.

 
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