Flesh and Bones: Of Frome Selwood and Wessex

Written by Annette Burkitt
Review by Anna Bennett

Archaeologist Annette Burkitt structures this work innovatively through her combination of the flesh (the fictional part of the text) and the bones (detailing of the archaeological and historical data). She focuses on the reign of Athelstan in the early to mid-10th century, utilizing place names, mythology, and primary sources to depict a period of great change within the Anglo-Saxon world. Readers get a glimpse into the socio-political evolution of the various cultures that existed and transformed during the late Anglo-Saxon period. Through the eyes of the fictitious clerk, Nonna, the book also explores what may have motivated Athelstan to some of the religious and political choices over his fourteen-year reign.

Burkitt’s unique voice is ingenious in the development of the storyline. I had trouble, at times, following the course of the plot between various years and narrators; however, I did find that the movement kept me engaged as a reader. This book will also interest those intrigued by place-name evolution in Britain, which Burkitt explores in the Bones section of Flesh & Bones. Knowledge of the Anglo-Saxon period is not necessary to read and comprehend, although it may help readers better place some of the contemporary issues (dynastic rollercoasters, Viking raids, and Welsh pseudo-assimilation, etc.).