Talking Location With author JS Monroe – West Penwith, CORNWALL
Historical novel set in 12th Century ENGLAND
1st November 2021
Matrix by Lauren Groff, historical novel set in 12th Century ENGLAND.
This is a deep immersion into the medieval era, well researched, credible and very atmospheric. Marie is the illegitimate child of royalty – in fact the half sister of Queen Eleanor (one of the most powerful and influential figures of the period) – but cannot attend court in France and is summarily shipped over to England to become the prioress of a run down abbey. Her face simply didn’t fit, given her tricky heritage and her unfortunate tall and gawky appearance.
She thus leaves all that she knows behind, including her beloved maid, and is thrust into a leadership role. She now has to find ways of motivating and bringing together a motley sisterhood, a group of women largely left to rot in their spartan surroundings. Food is scarce and life is incredibly hard, and it is very much a hand to mouth existence.
The author is incredibly talented at painting the time and place, the cold and harsh conditions and the rigorous religious piety at the heart of the community. The sisters have to toil in the fields in all seasons, combat easily sparked fires, deal with disease and ailments, and generally manage their household; this is very much a story of female resilience, courage and determination. Marie was gifted in many ways to lead her community, well suited to combat political upheaval and she was a terrifically skilled adversary when it came to male interference and domination.
I came away from this novel having learned more about life in an abbey in that time, and I was left feeling extremely grateful that I wasn’t born into that harsh life and period. It is not my go-to genre but feel that if readers have any interest in the life and times of women, brought together for a variety of reasons, then this is a wonderfully told story, brought to life by a very skilled and talented hand.
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