The Time of Singing is the story of Roger Bigod. The story opens in the 1170s, when Roger is a young knight. At the court of Henry II, he meets Ida de Tosney, one of Henry’s mistresses, who he later marries. Over the years, as Roger takes on more responsibility as justiciar during Richard’s reign, Roger and Ida’s marriage is tested to the limit. Also added in to the mix is a bitter inheritance dispute between Roger and his half brothers. The novel covers a period of roughly 20 years, up until the death of Richard I in 1199.
Once again, Elizabeth Chadwick hits it out of the park, with a real, vivid story set against the political background of the 12th century, fraught as it is with intrigue and danger. As EC mentions on her Living the History blog, Roger’s life closely paralleled that of William Marshal (if you read and enjoyed Chadwick two books about him, you’ll be as pleased as I was to see that William plays a medium-sized role in The Time of Singing).
Unlike William, however, not much is known about Roger’s life, so Chadwick had the additional challenge of piecing together parts of the story based on what little is known. She succeeds in this tremendously, combining historical fact with a little bit of invention sometimes that fits in with the characters. I really enjoyed reading about Roger and Ida’s marriage, for good or for worse. They’re the kind of couple you find yourself rooting for, even as they deal with the tough stuff. I always love when novels get you emotionally involved in that way. Chadwick’s novels are always well-researched, and I know that I can expect a high level of historical accuracy from her books.
I’ve sort of developed a crush on Roger. He’s always able to deal effectively—and generously—with adversity, as witness his interactions with his half brothers or William Longspee (the latter is an arrogant jerk, but Roger, God bless him, still manages to find something nice to say about him). In all, a fantastic novel with fascinating characters. I can’t wait to read EC’s next book.
Also reviewed by: Tanzanite's Shelf