Godwine Kingmaker: Part One of the Last Great Saxon Earls

Written by Mercedes Rochelle
Review by Theresa Tomlinson

The scope of this book is ambitious, as it tells the story of Godwine, son of Wulfnoth, the disgraced Thegn of Sussex, from the early days of his youth, through power and exile, until his death. We follow his progress from Saxon shepherd, who, seeing no future for himself, aids the invading Danes, unsure as to whether he is behaving treacherously or not. The earlier part of the story is set between England and Denmark as the young man seizes every opportunity to advance himself and moves swiftly to become a favourite and advisor to King Canute. He is rewarded for his loyalty with the Earldom of Wessex and a Danish lady of high rank as his wife.

We move on through the troublesome reigns of Harthacnut, Harold Harefoot and Edward the Confessor, as Godwine struggles to retain power. I would have liked a little more depth to the characters, especially Godwine himself, who must have been an extraordinary man and I sometimes felt that I did not understand his motivation well enough. There were also occasions when I found that the modern American/English narrative jarred a little quit, gotten, seems like, as example.

The author must have undertaken detailed research as the customs of the time are brought vividly to life. I felt that I understood much more about this complicated, but important period of history, for having read the book. The ending neatly sets the scene for the Norman Conquest and a sequel in which Godwine’s son Harold will rise to power. The presentation, cover design and copyediting is good.