Bookish conversation with author Samantha Wilcoxson.
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This is the story of Aethelflaed, daughter of Alfred the Great and a woman with a wonderful story of her own. Unfortunately, like many medieval women, her story has gone largely untold. With To Be A Queen, author Annie Whitehead aims to right that wrong and give Aethelflaed the credit she is due.
The reader gets to know this princess of Wessex by the pet name Teasel, which sets within the modern mind a little more comfortably than Aethelflaed. We first meet her as a little girl who hopes that she seems just grown up enough to be considered as a wife for the handsome Mercian soldier that she has fallen hard for. Her interactions with her brother, the future Kind Edward, establish a close bond that remains with them wherever life leads them.
Through each stage of Teasel's life, the author has injected this novel with a stunning amount of historical detail. The reader is truly transported into the 9th century and made a part of daily life - the hunger, hard work, and fear of invaders that plague the people of every station. Teasel is not immune because of her high position. In fact, she worries all the more and works even harder because she knows that she is responsible for a kingdom of people who depend upon her.
When Teasel becomes a lady of Mercia by marriage, her character shines through as strong and selfless. Her arranged marriage is not the one she was hoping for and the Mercians do not immediately welcome her presence. I enjoyed watching her mature and develop relationships that caused the people of her adopted kingdom to grow to love her.
This novel is a close look at Aethelflaed's corner of the world, but it also gives readers a peek at the wider politics of the English people. Viking invaders and struggles for power had the potential to change and destroy lives, sometimes based on the decisions and ambition of a single person. Teasel does her best to serve her husband and her people, but she is not made out to be the perfect princess. She makes mistakes, suffers heartache, and has regrets.
No longer lost to the distant past, Princess Aethelflaed is vividly brought to life in this well-written biographical novel.