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Review: Great Maria, by Cecelia Holland

Pages: 551

Original date of publication: 1974

My edition: 2010 (Sourcebooks)

Why I decided to read: publicist sent me a copy for review

How I acquired my copy: same, April 2010

Having read Jerusalem, I was eager to read Great Maria, a novel set in Sicily in the middle ages. Maria is the daughter of a robber baron, compelled to marry Richard, brother of Roger, the man she really loves.

I wanted to like this book, I really did, but the author’s writing style kept bogging me down. She writes in short choppy sentences that are hard to follow at times, and I found myself skipping and skimming in many places. Maybe it’s me, but I thought that the writing style of this book was a lot different from that which Holland used in Jerusalem—it may be intentional I don’t know. Holland describes everything in minute detail, sometimes to the detriment of the story. It’s a pity, because the details of Maria’s life are interesting in places and give the reader a generally good feel for the life of an average woman in the middle ages. At the same time, though, the author doesn’t do a very good job of describing her location: her novel could be taking place anywhere. It’s kind of like not seeing the forest for the trees, in a way.

Maria is a believable heroine for the time period, but the author’s detached attitude to her heroine never really made me feel close to her. I loved the premise of the book, but the execution of the book left me wanting more. It’s a pity, because I’ve enjoyed Holland’s writing in the past.


Daphne said…
I'll be reading this one in the next week or so - sorry to hear that you didn't enjoy it. I recently finished HOlland's new book on Eleanor of Aquitaine - i liked it quite a bit, so we'll see how this one goes...
I just picked up a copy of Jerusalem due to all the good reviews I've read of that one. Isn't it frustrating when an author changes styles on you? Grrrrr. :)
dolleygurl said…
I have to agree with you about the style - I liked the story, but it was hard to drag myself through.

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