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Carpe Librum

Bookish conversation with author Samantha Wilcoxson.


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Historical Novel Society

This Time - Joan Szechtman The concept for this book was too unique and interesting to pass up: Richard III brought into the 21st century. How would this medieval king, known to be both battle hardened soldier and fair judge, fit into a world that in no way resembles his own? As it turns out this book has little to do with the "real Richard." Szechtman does not spend much ink on discussing Richard's "past" life, though he is asked whether or not he murdered his nephews. Richard does not ask any questions about the fate of people he knew, though he struggles with survivor's guilt when he considers those loyal to him who fell at Bosworth, as he should have.

My biggest issue with this book is that Richard just didn't seem to be the same person anymore. Though he frequently thinks of his wife, he quickly falls into bed with two other women. He was a duke and king (not to mention his various other titles), but seems to acquiesce quickly to the idea of putting on khakis and finding his cubicle. Coming from a time when mass was attended once or more daily, baptism & confession were considered of upmost importance, and eternal salvation gave men courage to face death in battle, Richard abandons his faith when he is basically told that it is outdated with little struggle on his part. The anti-Christian message was a little heavy-handed in this novel, but Richard never defends his faith as one would expect him to. (Wouldn't he accuse those around him of being heretics, not just say, "Oh, people aren't Catholic anymore? Okay.)

It ended up being more disheartening than anything else to observe a powerful, intelligent man be pushed into a boring office job and convinced that Christians were the cause of the Holocaust. Richard meets a woman and instantly falls in love and wants to marry her, despite the fact that love is not what marriage would have been based on in his time and other characteristics of this woman make her someone that I wouldn't have expected the true Richard to admire. It is as though he quickly leaves behind everything that he was and forms himself into what he is told a 21st century man should be. The novel winds up being more of a contemporary romance than historical fiction.

I still have high hopes for the sequel which is rated better and appears to give us another glance into the past, a place where I hope Richard can become himself again.