Tuesday, June 24, 2014
[Review] Blood and Roses: One Family's Struggle And Triumph During The Tumultuous Wars Of The Roses by Helen Castor
Genre: Paston Letters, British History, Medieval England, Monarchy, British History Reading Challenge 2014
Rating: 4 1/2 Stars for very good/near excellent
Blood and Roses, follows the Paston family, through the use of their letters, which covers three generations. The time period is 1378 through 1500. The first Paston generation toiled the land as farmers, and yet were able to secure an education for their son. This dynamic son was a fresh start in gaining advancement for the Paston family beyond that of poor laborers. The history of England is not just the background for the Paston family, they too are involved in the inter-workings of history.
The Paston letters gave an intimacy to the book. I was not reading about English history alone, but of a particular family who lived and experienced life during the medieval era.
In one letter the wife reminded her husband to remember to bring her back from the city a material object, a wife reminding her husband to remember her, no matter he was there on business, but to remember her too. In reading personal letters or a memoir, a reader becomes invested in, as well as swept away with the thoughts and feelings of the writers; in addition, the humanity of the people shine forth, and we're reminded of our own lives and similarities.
Helen Castor paints a wonderful history book, creating in the reader a mind for the medieval era, and a reminder that medieval people were just as we are; they worked, and married, and raised children, worried about those who governed, worried about sickness, and hoped the next generation would advance and be productive in society.
Castor expounded on information I'd not heard of in other books with a similar theme.
1. For example, lower class people had to dress in certain types of clothing, whereas aristocracy dressed in another way. Of course aristocracy could afford to dress in a more lavish way. I did not know it was socially acceptable to abide by this. Further, "...a statute was passed specifically" in 1363, detailing "restrictions on 'outrageous and excessive apparel.'"
2. Castor explained church views on those who'd died and their entry to heaven.
There were a few moments in the beginning of the book where I felt bogged down in information, but during the reign of Edward IV my interest peaked. Over-all this is a marvelous book and I recommend it.
She-Wolves: The Women Who Ruled England Before Elizabeth, is a second book Helen Castor has written. I've read this book and a review will follow soon.
Authors site: Helen Castor
Paperback $12.27 @Amazon.
$12.30 @ Books a Million.
Several links for further information on the Paston family letters:
A Letter From Margaret Paston, from Univ. Glasgow.
From Medieval English Literature/Luminarium.
From About.com, History of Paston Family Letters.
James Adams Historic Enterprises, The Paston's A 15th -Century English Family.
The First English Family Letters, from History Today.
From the Library of Univ California Riverside, the full text of letters.
Corpus of Middle English Prose and Verse.
BBC History: Paston Family Letters.
I've watched the following YouTube videos. Fascinating!