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Review: Of the Ring of Earls, by Juliet Dymoke

Original date of publication: 1970
My edition: 1973 (Arrow)
Why I decided to read: mention on HFO
How I acquired my copy: through, February 2010

If you’ve read Elizabeth Chadwick’s The Winter Mantle, you’ll know what this novel is about: Waltheof of Huntingdon, the English Earl who nonetheless managed to keep his lands after the invasion of the Normans in 1066. He led a rebellion against the King, who nevertheless managed to forgive him; and later, Waltheof married Judith, William’s niece.

It’s a very, very good, story, one that I suspect not many people know about. Comparisons with Elizabeth Chadwick’s very good novel are inevitable. They obviously tell the same story, but in completely different ways. Waltheof here is a bit more romanticized, and Judith doesn’t have quite the amount of presence that she does in Chadwick’s book. Dymoke just doesn’t give her reader enough time to understand Judith’s motives for betraying her husband in the major way she does. So Judith comes across in this novel as an angry, bitter, wronged wife, whereas in real life I feel she was a lot more complicated than that.

Other than Judith, however, I felt that there was good character development overall in this novel, taking place as it does between the years of 1055-1076. Waltheof made a lot of major mistakes in his life, none the more so at the end, when he made the mistake that cost him his life. The story of Waltheof’s life is a very touching one, especially since Dymoke tells his story very sympathetically; so that at the end, you really feel badly about our hero’s fate. Those of you who have read The Winter Mantle will be interested to note that the famous mantle makes an appearance here, though Juliet Dymoke doesn’t attach the same kind of significance to it that Elizabeth Chadwick does.

I’ve only recently discovered the lost novels of Juliet Dymoke, and I’ve made it a point to hunt many of them down. Henry of the High Rock and Lion’s Legacy are loosely connected to this one, and cover the stories of Henry I and the wars between Steven and Matilda, respectively.


Daphne said…
I've read a couple of her books and have enjoyed them. I have this one and the others that you mentioned - I'm looking forward to reading them!
Misfit said…
I'd like to get my hands on this too. I tried for an ILL and I just got an email back that the only libraries that had it were asking $10-$15 handling fees.

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