Nicola Griffith

Book - 2013

"A brilliant, lush, sweeping historical novel about the rise of the most powerful woman of the Middle Ages: Hild Hild is born into a world in transition. In seventh-century Britain, small kingdoms are merging, usually violently. A new religion is coming ashore; the old gods' priests are worrying. Edwin of Northumbria plots to become overking of the Angles, ruthlessly using every tool at his disposal: blood, bribery, belief. Hild is the king's youngest niece. She has 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 human nature and predicting what will happen next--that can seem uncanny, even supernatural, to those around her. She establishes herself as the king's seer. And she is indispensable--until she should ever lead the king astray. The stakes are life and death: for Hild, her family, her loved ones, and 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 medieval age--all of it brilliantly and accurately evoked by Nicola Griffith's luminous prose. Recalling such feats of historical fiction as Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall and Sigrid Undset's Kristin Lavransdatter, Hild brings a beautiful, brutal world--and one of its most fascinating, pivotal figures, the girl who would become St. Hilda of Whitby--to vivid, absorbing life"--

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FICTION/Griffith, Nicola
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Historical fiction
New York : Farrar, Straus and Giroux 2013.
First edition
Physical Description
viii, 546 pages : illustration ; 24 cm
Main Author
Nicola Griffith (-)
Review by Booklist Reviews

*Starred Review* In her first foray into historical fiction, Griffith explores the young life of Hild, the future St. Hilda of Whitby. Set in seventh-century Anglo-Saxon England, during the early years of Christianity there, the novel begins with the sudden death of Hild's father, Lord Hereric. To secure the futures of her daughters, Hild's ruthless and cunning mother embarks on a plan to hook their fate to the coattails of Edwin Snakebeard, Lord Hereric's ambitious brother and king-to-be. Soon, Hild becomes Edwin's trusted seer, and as the novel progresses, she attempts to stay in his favor, treading carefully among the large egos of the court and knowing that her survival depends as much on luck as it does on the accuracy of her predictions. Griffith expertly blends an exploration of seventh-century court life and a detailed character study of Hild as she balances a need for acceptance, love, and friendship and a desire to escape the strict gender roles of her time. While fierce battles and political intrigue feature prominently, so do the fascinating details of everyday life, particularly the lives of women. In short, Griffith triumphs with this intelligent, beautifully written, and meticulously researched novel. Copyright 2013 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

This hefty novel is loaded with Old English vocabulary (a glossary is provided) and rich details of daily life that immerse the reader in the seventh-century Anglo-Saxon world. England is still covered with primordial forest teeming with wildlife, the Roman occupation is a not-too-distant memory, and pagan animism is losing ground to Christianity. Like Hild, who at age three learns that her father, a minor Anglisc king, has been killed, the reader must make sense of shifting feudal alliances. Hild grows into a preternaturally tall and powerful presence, and her calculating mother molds her into a seer whose supernatural gifts and fighting prowess make her invaluable to her uncle, the new king. Hild bases her predictions on signs in nature, a useful skill when fortunes are tied closely to the land. She joins the rest of her feudal court and converts to Christianity, at a time when it is politically expedient. VERDICT Based on the real-life St. Hilda of Whitby (614-80 CE), Griffith's Hild may be too remarkable to be true, but the novel provides a fascinating view of women's lives in the early Middle Ages, from their vital roles in textile production and keepers of the household to sleeping arrangements and sexuality. Recommend to readers of historical fiction. [See Prepub Alert, 5/20/13.]—Reba Leiding, formerly with James Madison Univ. Lib., Harrisonburg, VA [Page 85]. (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

Since Griffith has won the Tiptree, Nebula, and World Fantasy awards, the Premio Italia, and the Lambda Literary Award six times, you're well advised to grab this fictionalized portrait of a girl name Hild who grew up in seventh-century Britain to become St. Hilda of Whitby. The writing itself is uncannily perceptive, with none of the flowery excess of some historical fiction writing, though the detailed narrative runs close to 600 pages. [Page 60]. (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

This is the epic coming-of-age story of Hilda of Whitby, considered to be one of the patron saints of learning and culture. Set in seventh-century Britain, the beautifully written tale brings light to the everyday world of the Dark Ages while exploring a treacherous time. Richly detailed and centered on the friendship of women, Griffith's tale is fraught with mysticism, battles, and political peril. The use of medieval English helps transport readers into another place and time. VERDICT The author's meticulous research, worldbuilding, and passion for history shine in this vast and vastly entertaining book that should appeal to fans of Hilary Mantel and T.H. White. (LJ 8/13) [Page 70]. (c) Copyright 2014. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

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) [Page ]. Copyright 2013 PWxyz LLC

Review by Publisher Summary 1

Possessing uncanny powers of observation that elevate her influence in turbulent seventh-century Britain, Hild, the king's youngest niece, is established as a seer and compelled to advise the king correctly at the risk of her loved ones.

Review by Publisher Summary 2

WINNER OF THE WASHINGTON STATE BOOK AWARD FOR FICTIONIn seventh-century Britain, a new religion is coming ashore and small kingdoms are merging, frequently and violently. Hild is the king's youngest niece, with a glittering mind and a natural authority.She is destined to become one of the pivotal figures of the Early Middle Ages: Saint Hilda of Whitby. But for now she has only the powerful curiosity of a bright child and the precarious advantage of a plotting uncle, Edwin of Northumbria, who will stop at nothing to become overking of Angles. Hild establishes a place for herself at his side as the king's seer, and she is indispensable—as long as she doesn't lead Edwin astray. The stakes are high—life and death—for Hild, for her family, and, increasingly, for those who seek the protection from this strange girl who seems to see the future. Drawing from the few records history has left us, Nicola Griffith has brought the young Saint Hilda's harsh, but beautiful, world to vivid, absorbing life.