Friday, April 30, 2010

Within the Hollow Crown

Within the Hollow Crown. Margaret Campbell Barnes. 1948/2010. SourceBooks. 368 pages.

Young Richard Plantagenet knelt by a richly blazoned tomb in Canterbury Cathedral while priests and monks chanted prayers for the repose of his father's soul.

I didn't love this one. Margaret Campbell Barnes is an author whose works I generally enjoy. I've read and reviewed My Lady of Cleves, King's Fool, and A Tudor Rose. All three were set in a time period that fascinates me--two set during the reign of Henry VIII, and the other was about Henry VIII's parents. So perhaps that makes a difference.

This novel is about the reign of Richard II. I knew nothing of this time period going into this one, and I don't feel this novel is the best introduction to the times. What did I learn about this one? It's hard to be king. Sounds simple and obvious, right? Of course it's hard to be king. Hard to balance what you want with what your country wants with what all the noblemen want. Richard didn't necessarily have the love and support of any of those. His own family, his own friends, his own countrymen plotting against him. But this book isn't just about how much of a struggle it is to be born royal--it's also about how it isn't always easy to be a good king and a good husband. (Though I must say I think he did much better than Henry VIII!)

I think it is possible to enjoy this one if you allow yourself the freedom not to worry about names and dates. Knowing nothing about this time, I didn't really get a feel for who was important and who wasn't. I don't feel I got a great introduction to any of the characters really except the king and queen. About the dates. I didn't feel the author did a good job with transitions. Going from chapter to chapter a few days might pass or a few years.

So while I didn't love this one, I still plan on reading more of Margaret Campbell Barnes.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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