To write a book set around the events of 1066, would seem prone to the ultimate spoiler alert. I can’t say that I kept turning the page to discover who won. The triumph of this book is instead to immerse us in the politics and the everyday life of the time. We get under the skin of the protagonists, be they duke, boatman, or serf. There is a scene of a shipwreck which is without a doubt the most vivid such description I have read.
As a writer myself, I seem no longer able to just read and enjoy. There’s always at least one brain cell asking, what can I learn from this writing? I’m seldom disappointed. The attention paid to the detail of scenes, the weather, the smells, the sounds, the feel, blew me away. I must pay more attention to every sense. I feel that my creative writing education has guided me away from omniscient narration, but the author’s expert use of it made me wonder. I’ve pulled down the “Big Red Book” and re-read the section on narration. I think I erroneously focused on what was fashionable, rather than what was most effective for the genre. The author’s use of metaphor and simile really impressed me. “Instead I have to sit and listen to his balls aching stories of adventure, his sodding harpist and the ramblings of that mad old advisor of his. That one with the face on him like a bloodhound licking piss off a thistle.” That made me smile. I need to learn from that.
Is there anything I do get right? Well, the money spent on my editor, Debz, is money well spent. It’s the time I’ve spent reading and re-reading my own manuscripts, looking for errors, and finding them aplenty. My eye has become over-attentive to errors. Senlac would benefit from more editing. I found opening quotation marks where they should have been closing. I found a full stop in the middle of a sentence. The funeral of Ulf takes place on page 473, yet on page 474 Ulf’s face is expressionless during a meeting in a sauna. Surely they didn’t take a dead man into the sauna with them? I checked the cast list for another Ulf, but there wasn’t one who could have been there. Maybe they did, they’re strange sorts those Norwegians.
It’s a pity because it’s a really great book. Hopefully most readers will glide happily over the minor glitches without noticing them. In the balance, the strengths greatly outweigh the minor imperfections. I shall be reading Senlac Book Two soon.