Sunday, February 2, 2014

Review - Isabella, Braveheart of France

Isabella: Braveheart of France
Colin Falconer
Publisher: Cool Gus Publishing
Pub. Date: September 3, 2013
Historical fiction

I was hoping to stir things up last time Iposted a review here, but no one seemed ready to agree or disagree with me. So let’s try again today…
I read a lot of historical novels, and quite a few related to French history. In the 1950s, a very popular series on the Capetian kings was written by Maurice Druon. Fortunately for the English speaking world, this series is being republished. Here is for instance myreview of the first volume.
So when I saw another recent book connected to this family, in the person of Isabella, I was thrilled.
Isabella of France is still a tween, as we would say today, when her father marries her to Edward II of England, of course merely for strategic reasons. She does fell in love, but does not receive in return what she expected. Stuck between her two countries and a tricky war situation, she has to rely on what she learned from her father to decide what to do, and maybe take decisions that could change the European political landscape.
The book started well, I liked the style, with short sentences and the use of the present tense. 

Incidentally, you may know that the French like to use what we call the “historical present”, meaning using the present tense to recount past events. It is commonly used in history books, text books, and in historical novels. To my French ears, it has the advantage of giving more momentum to events long passed, as if you were just reliving them right now. So I do appreciate when some authors use this trick as well in English.
And then, typos arrived and multiplied… I have heard that maybe I received a defective copy, still, I do not think this is acceptable for a professional author, publisher, or whoever, to release out there a work of such poor quality.

Admittedly, I have found some books really great and because of their quality, was able not to pay too much attention to typos and the like.
But when the book is not that great, it adds to the unease!

I indeed started questioning ways Isabella was depicted. Could she really have been THAT mature and knowledgeable in state/court matters at 12?

I think the author offers a very simplistic portrait of Isabella. She is super mature, and then quite obsessed by having/not having sexual relationships with her husband.
The novel focuses a lot around her husband's gay friends. Even though moral life was lived quite loosely at court, I think the book is too much focused on sex. I believe the reality of the relationship between Isabella, Edward and his intimate friends, was much more complex.

Isabella is known as the she-wolf of France. She sounds rather tame here, apart from her very gruesome words on his dead casket.

Even her tough act -denouncing her 2 sisters who had lovers, is presented more like something a kid sees and would report to her parents. Maurice Druon’s presentation sounds so much more coming from a desperate woman with lots of complex interests at heart.

And I can’t fathom why the author stopped his novel when Edward dies.

Isabella's regime after is just as important, and that’s precisely when she does show more of her 'she-wolfness', even if it's just for a few years. She did all this to put her son on the throne of England, and the author stops before it!

As for the epilogue, it is really far-fetched and goofy. Yes indeed, a few historians have argued that actually Edward was not killed, but escaped and lived a solitary life in Gloucester. But then, why choose to make him a pseudo-monk in Italy of all places, touching fingers and kissing another monk - on the cheek, right, but even THAT was not permitted between religious brothers in the Middle Ages, and I do believe in that century at least, monastic life did not allow loose morals as they did in court.
Thinking more about it, actually I think the book is almost more about Edward than Isabella.

For the editing problems, apart from typos, I found many words missing, and some quotation marks used instead of apostrophes. 

Even more seriously, Pembroke dies in chapter 39, but he is alive and talks in chapter 40. I had to reread these pages several times to believe my eyes!

The whole first part of chapter 49 has nothing to do there. I was puzzled when I read it. But then light came when I found it repeated, at its correct place, at the beginning of chapter 57.
So let’s talk here. 
  1. Some of you have read and positively reviewed this book. Did you get all these editing mistakes? Didn’t they bother you?
  2. Generally speaking, are you bothered or not with major editing problems and typos in books?
  3. As for Isabella, did you think the way she was described made sense, according to the context of the time? Oh, by the way, the cover of the page is totally off, she would NOT have worn gowns with jewels like that, but many bloggers did notice that.
Let me know what you think.

About the Author:
Born in London, Colin first trialed as a professional football player in England, and was eventually brought to Australia. He went to Sydney and worked in TV and radio and freelanced for many of Australia’s leading newspapers and magazines. He has published over twenty novels and his work has so far been translated into 23 languages. 

He travels regularly to research his novels and his quest for authenticity has led him to run with the bulls in Pamplona, pursue tornadoes across Oklahoma and black witches across Mexico, go cage shark diving in South Africa and get tear gassed in a riot in La Paz. 

His most recent novels are Silk Road, set in the 13th century, and Stigmata, set against the backdrop of the Albigensian Crusade in Southern France in 1209. He currently lives in Barcelona.

For more information please visit Colin Falconer's blog. You can also find him on Facebook or follow on Twitter

1 comment:

  1. I don't think I would like reading a book with typos and other problems.


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