“After Flodden” is a novel that explores the aftermath of the battle of Flodden fields within the lives of historical characters, some true, some fictional. I found it hard to put down! I enjoyed reading about this period of Scottish history and life in post-medieval Europe.
Louise Brenier and her mother are wondering why they have had no word of Louise’s brother Benoit (who is fighting on the Scottish side), since the battle of Flodden. After trying to find out from various sources what could have happened, Louise, young, naive, and a bit impetuous, strikes out on her own to discover where her brother could be. With a backstory of generations of revenge and feuding, the novel links the story of the battle of Flodden Field with treachery, suspicion and gallantry all set in the sixteenth century.
” Can we really blame the boy if he took against the crown, and all this grande follie, these family feuds that last for generations? What is war, but our own squabbles on a grand scale? and who is to say what is the right side, and what party deserves to win? English, Scottish, French, they’re all as wicked and wrong as each other.”
I enjoyed reading about the countryside of Scotland, especially the Borderlands, and referred to the map included in the book often. However I did find the alternating time periods and flashbacks to be a bit confusing at times, and I think the book would have been better written in chronological order. King Henry VIII (a young king at the time), especially with his suspicion of a Scots/French alliance, in this portrayal, is quite well done.
I did not like Patrick Paniter, James IV’s ‘right hand man’ at all, in his manipulation and overbearing influence on King James, but it does credit to the author’s writing and is apparent, at least to me, that the reader was meant to take Paniter this way. After the battle, shown in several flashbacks, Paniter is plagued with guilt, partly due to his influencing the Scottish king. Louise Bernier is a character that I came to like, and it is interesting to see her mature throughout the story. Her use of a disguise was a clever device to make the choice to travel at first on her own (especially in this time period), more believable. The last chapter was a bit too ‘gory’ for me but on the whole, the book was not too graphic.
Although the plot itself was a bit too predictable (I spotted who the English spy was quite early on), I did enjoy this novel and I will be reading the sequel, “Dacre’s War”, as soon as I can get to it!
Rosemary Goring writes here: “Writing After Flodden was an act of imaginative inquiry. I did not think of myself as writing a historical novel or righting ancient wrongs; rather I was exploring a set of characters and questions that interested me”.
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