Skip to main content

Review: The Lute Player, by Norah Lofts


Pages: 572
Original date of publication: 1951
My edition: 2009 (Touchstone)
Why I decided to read: Found it while browsing at B&N
How I acquired my copy: Bought at B&N with a giftcard, January 2010


The Lute Player is the story of Richard the Lionhearted, as told from the point of view of Blondel, the eponymous lute player; Richard’s mother, Eleanor of Aquitaine; and Anna Apieta, crippled half sister to Richard’s wife, Berengaria. The novel focuses on Richard’s reign of England (a country he spent very little time in), especially the time he spent while on crusade. It’s hard to write about someone in English history who is so well-known and well-loved; what better way than to write his story from the point of view of the people who knew him best?

The book takes a while to get going—most of the beginning is devoted to Berengaria, hopelessly in love with a man who was more in love with the idea of reclaiming the Holy Land. In fact, the real action of the book begins with the crusade, which doesn’t actually happen until around page 300! Nonetheless, this novel is written in an engaging style, and many of the characters, especially the ones who are narrators, are well-defined. I feel as though Eleanor of Aquitaine is a difficult person to write about, much less put words into her mouth, and I think Lofts did an admirable job of writing as her. I found myself less sympathetic towards and understanding of Anna, mainly because of her self-deprecating attitude towards her condition and natural acceptance of her spinsterhood.

The book is a little long, however, and it gets wearying after a while. For a book that’s supposed to be about Richard, I got a feel more for some of the other characters—especially since Richard kept haring off at every opportunity. And the major event that happens that changes the relationship between Blondel and Richard isn’t described, only alluded to, so the awkwardness between them seemed a bit contrived. Still, I enjoyed this novel about the late-12th century—though I think there are better novels out there. And I hear that Sharon Kay Penman is in the midst of writing a book about Richard herself…

Comments

Svea Love said…
Thanks for this review...I had been wondering about this book and you answered my questions :)

Popular posts from this blog

Review: Forever Amber, by Kathleen Winsor

Forever Amber takes place in the 1660s, immediately follwing Charles II's ("the Merry Monarch") return of the Stuarts to the English throne. The book features Amber St. Claire, a young woman who starts out as a sixteen-year-old country girl, naieve to the workings of the world. She immediately meets Bruce Carlton, a dashing young Cavalier, with whom she has a passionate love affair in choppy intervals throughout the book. They have two children together, but Bruce won't marry her for the reason he tells his friend Lord Almsbury: that Amber just isn't the kind of woman one marries.

Upon following Bruce to London, he goes to Virginia, leaving her to fend for herself. What follows is a series of affairs and four marriages, with Bruce coming back from America now and then. Amber's marriages are imprudent: her first husband is a gambler, her second is an old dotard, her third locks her up in the house for days and won't let her out; and the last is a fop who a…

Review: This Rough Magic, by Mary Stewart

Pages: 254Original date of publication: 1964My edition: 1964 (William Morrow)Why I decided to read: it was 90 degrees outside at the time and I decided it was time to read another book by a favorite authorHow I acquired my copy: from Susanna Kearsley, December 2009Sometimes, whether or not I decide to read a book depends on the weather. Mary Stewart’s books are best read on either very hot or very cold days; and since it was 90 degrees out one weekend a couple of weeks ago, I decided that this one would be perfect. And it was.This Rough Magic takes its title from The Tempest, a play from which this novel takes off. Lucy Waring is a struggling actress who comes to visit her sister on Corfu. One of her neighbors is a renowned actor who’s taken a bit of a sabbatical and his son, a musician with whom Lucy comes to blows at first. This Rough Magic is vintage Mary Stewart, with a murder or two, a mystery, romance, suspense, and lots of magic thrown in. Lucy is your typical Mary Stewart hero…

Review: Joy in the Morning, by Betty Smith

Pages: 294
Original date of publication: 1963
My edition: 2010 (Harper Perennial)
Why I decided to read:
How I acquired my copy: Barnes and Noble, Phoenix, January 2011


A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is one of my all-time favorite books and I’ve read it, oh, half a dozen times, so I was interested to see how Joy in the Morning would compare.

Set in the late 1920s, Joy in the Morning begins when Annie, aged 18, comes to a small Midwestern college town where her fiancĂ©e, Carl, is in law school. The novel opens with their marriage in the county courthouse, and follows the couple through their first year or so of marriage. It’s a struggle, because Carl and Annie are basically children themselves, for all the ways in which Carl tries to appear more adult-like.

Annie is endearing; she’s ignorant but a voracious reader, reading everything from Babbitt to War and Peace. Betty Smith’s novels are pretty autobiographical; Joy in the Morning is (unofficially) a kind of sequel to A Tree Grows in Brooklyn—cert…