Godiva by Nicole Galland

Title: Godiva
Author: Nicole Galland

Genre: Fiction (Historical / 11th Century / UK / Royal Intrigue / Edward the Confessor / Godiva / Historical Figures Fictionalized)
Publisher/Publication Date: William Morrow (7/2/2013)
Source: The publisher.

Rating: Liked!
Did I finish?: I did, very quickly!
One-sentence summary: An 11th century noblewoman finds herself condemned for her flirtatious politicking and must chose between surrendering her property -- the city of Coventry -- or riding naked through it.
Reading Challenges: Historical Fiction

Do I like the cover?: Guiltily, I don't! I appreciate seeing a full face, but she's a redhead! And she's clothed! Which isn't to say Godiva must be depicted naked, but, I don't know, if you're going to do a woman and a horse...

I'm reminded of...: Michelle Diener, Marina Fiorato, Karen Harper, Deborah Lawrenson

First line: In the time it took Godiva to wrest a concession from the young man, she could have easily spun a skein of yarn.

Buy, Borrow, or Avoid?: Borrow or buy if you're curious about the famous Lady Godiva, or want a brisk and fun historical novel

Why did I get this book?: I loved Galland's I, Iago and I've always admired the infamous Lady Godiva.

Review: I'm having a shockingly hard time writing this review given that I had a great time with it and was provoked and amused by our heroine, Godiva.

Set in 11th century England, the novel follows two friends: the titular heroine Godiva, a flirtatious landowning noblewoman; and her best friend, Edgiva, niece of King Edward (the Confessor) and abbess of Leominster Abbey. Both girls grew up together in Leominster, but Godiva knew she would eventually marry while Edgiva, whose possible offspring could be contenders to the throne, was dedicated to the church. She became abbess at 18 without having the chance of deciding if this was her vocation.

It's this lack of choice that Godiva fights, for she is as active and commanding a ruler as her husband Leofric. One of the three most powerful lords in the kingdom, Leofric's wealth and army is a threat to the king, who maintains a harsh tax to pay for a foreign mercenary army to keep England under his rule.

Ostensibly, it is this tax that provides the catalyst for the novel's events. Shifting the legend a hint -- rather than her husband refusing to remove this tax, it is now Edward who levies it -- Galland posits that it might have been Godiva's frank sexuality and political manoeuvrings that provoked Edward into making his shocking demand: that Godiva ride naked thru Coventry.

Godiva, as we see from the opening scene, using her sexuality boldly, wrangling unruly lords into submitting to decisions they might otherwise fight. She will be, I suspect, a polarizing heroine for people because of this. Even I had a very uncomfortable response to her coquetry and impetuous use of her charms to get things done. And yet, as I discussed with Jessie of Ageless Pages Review on GoodReads, I don't believe that wives of rulers didn't use their skills to enact change as needed, wresting power as they could. Godiva's flirtatiousness is no different a strategy for control than a ruler's physical prowess or immense wealth.

Tangled in with Godiva's story is Edgiva's. A competent abbess and Godiva's closest friend, she has her own scandalous challenge, one that is worsened by Godiva's meddling. The two women have a loving and emotionally rich friendship, which is tried when Edgiva learns of Godiva's involvement in, well, I don't want to give away the details. But Galland doesn't shy from having these two fight -- painfully! -- and it brought tears to my eyes.

One of the things that delighted me most about I, Iago was Galland's emotionally resonate exploration of Iago. For Godiva, Galland took her own naked ride on a horse which influenced how she wrote Godiva's own nude ride. That section was particularly poetic, pretty, and moving, I found, and now I understand why!

The style of this book is 'lighter' than I, Iago, which isn't a bad thing; in many ways, the narrative style echoes Godiva: quick, pretty, flirty, surprising depth. Galland takes a brutal era and two stories -- one legendary, one historic -- and creates a novel that touches on surprisingly deep themes.

Comments

  1. Galland went above and beyond to research this book so I'm very curious about it. It sounds great!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I know -- but I love that she did it. I've been so impressed with the way she's plumbed her own life for her novels in such rich, interesting ways -- and it shows in her narrative and the emotional scope of her stories. So good!

      Delete
  2. I sooooo want to read this one!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's so worth being excited for!! I think TLC is doing a tour for it so there might be some giveaways that way!

      Delete
  3. The ONLY thing I know about Godiva is that that's where the Peeping Tom thing came from. So hurrah for books being written about her!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's pretty cool how Galland sets up the situation where it occurs (and how she deals with the peepers!).

      Delete
    2. FYI... the Peeping Tom part of the story came along 800 YEARS later... hope you enjoy the read, and thank you Audra for this lovely review :-)

      Delete
  4. I am just so curious about her :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This book has me more intrigued -- but also more nervous. Galland has the sort of sentiments I do, I think, about women, and she envisioned a world for Edgiva in particular that isn't precisely historically accurate. I love Galland for what she evoked and so while I'm curious, I'm not sure I want history to intrude on what made me really happy. I don't mean to be vague but I don't want to give anything away!

      Delete
  5. I liked this one too, and I totally agree with your sense of this as light, but still deep. Well said!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Upon finishing, I couldn't shake the sort of gut punch I felt -- in a good way. This one will linger, I suspect!

      Delete
  6. I'm adding this to my list. I don't tend to read this era, but I'm so curious about this woman's history! Another great review, Audra. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Heather, VERY worth deviating from your typical reads for -- she's a fascinating creature!

      Delete
  7. Great review. This one didn't work as well for me, although I loved the interaction between Godiva and Edgiva -- props to Galland for that! She really did focus attention on pre-Norman England, which is a time that gets very little attention, so I appreciated that as well.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I like this era but not many books set in this time frame. I'd like to get to this one.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. So fascinating -- it's not an era I know much about either!

      Delete
  9. I need to snap this one up. I've been wanting to read Galland, and I know surprisingly little about Godiva.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Andi, do, do! It's so good, and I just love Galland. So glad I've got at least two more novels of hers left to read!

      Delete
  10. Oh I didn't realize that she was the one who had written I, Iago also - it's on my shelf! This book has intrigued me.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Wow, I love re-tellings and this sounds like a really good one! I also love your header categories, especially "I'm reminded of..." and "Buy, Borrow or Avoid". They're just so helpful :)

    ReplyDelete
  12. Pretty sure I had the option of being on this tour, but I just wasn't sure, because there weren't really reviews yet. Will I regret it? Let's see, shall we?

    Holy shit. She rode naked on a horse. O_O That sounds bouncy and all kinds of uncomfortable, but bonus points to Galland for being a badass.

    Hmm, I'm okay with not having gotten it, but I am curious! Maybe someday.

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Teaser Tuesday, August 1: Hippos!

Winter 2017 Bloggiesta To Do Post

Mailbox Monday, July 24

Where They Bury You by Steven W. Kohlhagen