Mary Lancaster,
The Endless Exile
(Mushroom, 2004)

The Endless Exile by Mary Lancaster opens with the death of Hereward. Somewhere around 1032, Hereward the Wake was born at Bourne. He inherited extensive lands in Lincolnshire and Warwickshire and, later, was the leader to the English resistance against William the Conqueror. He is believed to have died around 1072. It is in this period of bloody Britain history Lancaster pens her tale.

It's a first person, very personal view of a Flemish woman, Torfrida, who later marries Hereward, in a time that was turbulent in British history. Lancaster has an easy voice, quickly pulling you into the saga. She strongly evokes the senses, to make you "see" the story as it unfolds. After the opening of Hereward's death, we move with a flashback to when Hereward and she were much younger. Sent as a 12-year-old child bride to Robert de Ghent, she is a shock to his family. Her parents set the betrothal by misrepresenting Torfrida's youth. Robert is in love with Lucy, Hereward's sister, and slowly Torfrida comes to love Hereward, though at time he exasperates her, even makes her hate him for his unbending rebellious streak.

It's richly researched, with a strong eye to historical details, the sort of historical saga you see so rarely today. You still see smaller presses putting out these sort of strong dramas in Britain, but the U.S. seems to think these are not popular. Well, the rise of e-books sales is telling a different story. The readers are there, just they have a hard time finding the sort of books they want. E-book publishers are cleaning up on New York City publishers' shortsightedness. And that Lancaster is not in print is most definitely shortsighted!

Lancaster gives an amazing tale, that totally fascinated and spellbound me. The young Hereward and Torfrida were amazing; they were so vivid and alive. Lancaster proves a marvellous talent bringing to life these complex characters. Torfrida is first angry with the brash young man. Her emotions morph slowly into friendship, admiration, empathy, even protectiveness of first love -- though still at times she is furious with his brashness. All these emotions are so well portrayed. Her jealousy is felt as she comes to understand Hereward is carrying on with the married beauty, Edith.

The story is fascinating, thrilling, brilliant, weaving between Torfrida's life upon Hereward's death and the flashbacks to their stormy love. Simply, Lancaster is a talent to behold, the tale amazing.

- Rambles
written by DeborahAnne MacGillivray
published 13 November 2004

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