#132 ~ The Conqueror

December 28, 2008 at 9:13 am | Posted in Books, Culture, Historical Fiction, Reading | 6 Comments
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The Conqueror by Georgette Heyer

The Conqueror tells the story of William the Conqueror, from his bastard birth, to his life as the Duke of Normandy, and finaly to his triumphant rise to the throne of England. Given the circumstances of William’s life and the political climate of both Normandy and England in the 11th century, this is quite an undertaking.

After reading The Reluctant Widow, I was very excited to start The Conqueror. My thinking was that if I loved her Regency Romances, I would really love her historical fiction. I was mistaken. Unlike The Reluctant Widow, this novel took me over a week to finish. This was mainly due to the slow and inconsistent pacing of the plot. While much time and energy was spent on William the Conqueror’s numerous battles, very little was spent on his relationship with Matilda or who he really was as a man. This lack of character development was true throughout, filling pages with numerous supporting characters between whom I could not readily distinguish. For me, they further bogged down the story and made it seem even that much longer than it really was.

There were flashes of Heyer’s brilliance when she tells of the circumstances of William’s birth, when she introduces Raoul, the fictional man through whom we meet William as a man and learn of his exploits, and when she tells of William’s “courting” of Lady Matilda. I also found it interesting to learn of ways in which William modernized the warfare of the day through strategy and the inclusion of archers. Clearly, William is a man capable of capturing the imagination of readers nearly a full century after his full and adventurous life. Unfortunately, this potential was lost to me amidst the superfluous characters and many of the battles in Normandy that did not add to the plot or provide any additional insight into William or, for that matter, Raoul or Matilda.

While The Conqueror did not engage me or take me away to time and places of William’s life, I am glad to have read it. This novel is best approached as one to read over a period of time. It would be interesting to read this in chapters or sections as a prelude to a thorough biography. I am curious to learn more about William, Matilda and and the lives of their children. In that way, this novel was a success. I hope to find a good book that focuses on the life that William and Matilda shared. If you have any suggestions, I would be most appreciative.

To buy this novel, click here.


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  1. Bummer! I was hoping this one would be fantastic.

  2. I really liked this book a lot, but I compeletly agree with some points you made. Her historicals are nothing like her regencies, and that can be a let down for some readers who aren’t expecting that. Also, the title of the book is *vastly* misleading. The book was much more about Raoul and his friendship with Edgar. And is does move slowly, especially as compared to her regencies. You have to go into her historicals with a completely different mindset, and I wasn’t prepared for that at first.


  3. This is the only Heyer book that I’ve read, so I’m glad to hear that her other books are different. It took me over a week to read this one too. I agree with everything you said aboutt he plot and the characters. I was really wishing that they would have spent more time on the interaction between William and Matilda and their relationship also.

  4. I’ve just read one Heyer and it was a Regency. If all the historicals are like this one, I’d hesitate to pick one up. I’m much more into characters and relationships than battle/war details.

    Great review, Jennifer.

  5. I recently read ‘Reluctant Widow’ and enjoyed it.
    Sorry to hear this one wasnt so great. It still sounds worth reading though. Great review 🙂

  6. Wife to the Bastard by Hilda Lewis is more about his relationship with Matilda. I didn’t think it was a spectacular book, but it wasn’t bad.
    Thank you for the recommendation, Daphne! I’ll keep my eyes open for it.

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