Sherwood: A Novel of Robin Hood and His Times Parke Godwin

ISBN: 9780945353638

Published: September 1st 1991



Sherwood: A Novel of Robin Hood and His Times  by  Parke Godwin

Sherwood: A Novel of Robin Hood and His Times by Parke Godwin
September 1st 1991 | Audio | PDF, EPUB, FB2, DjVu, AUDIO, mp3, RTF | | ISBN: 9780945353638 | 8.35 Mb

Update note, Dec. 24, 2012 --That book mentioned in the first paragraph below, that I couldnt recall the author or title of when I wrote this review, was Robin Hood (1912) written by Henry Gilbert.My first literary introduction to the Robin Hood legend came as a seven- year old kid, through a large, thick (or so it seemed to me then, with a childs size perceptions!) trade paperback novel, of which --to my great frustration!-- I cant now recall either the author or the title.

(But I vividly recall the cover, and large amounts of the content!) The style and reading level marked it as an adult, not a juvenile book --but a 50s adult book, with no content a kid with a good vocabulary and bright mind couldnt read. I read it avidly, and the unjustly outlawed champion of the underdogs (like myself) against the bullies, who robbed from the rich to give to the poor, found an enduring soft spot in my heart- hence my attraction to other literary and dramatic portrayals of the character.

Im currently reading Lawheads Hood, and that prompted me to think about writing a retrospective review of this somewhat earlier book.The Robin Hood legend/tradition grew over time, adding layers of features influenced by later developments- the medieval folk ballads about Robin that are the first embodiments of the tale dont anchor him in a specific historical time and a specific part of England.

Sir Walter Scott was the first writer, in Ivanhoe (which Ive also reviewed on Goodreads), to make him a contemporary of Richard the Lionhearted. That image stuck, and became the traditional historical setting for most of the treatments that followed, including my first introduction to the character. Godwin, however, sets himself to writing a historical re-imagining of what the factual roots of the tale, if any, might have been like (much as Catherine Christian does for the Arthurian legend in The Pendragon). That leads him to set the story just after the 1066 Norman conquest, when the antipathy between Saxons and Normans was at its height (by the time period of Ivanhoe, that distinction, and with it the animosity, had actually been largely dissipated by intermarriage and acculturation).Though the Goodreads description above strays into review territory, its superlative praises are actually pretty well founded.

Personally, I debated between giving the book five stars or four only because I sometimes think Im too prodigal with my five-stars, and the five-star rating puts it in company with some major classics. But I settled on five, because there is literally no element of historical fiction that Godwin doesnt handle well here: excellent plotting, vivid and credible characters, perfect pacing, beautiful style with just the right amount of rich detail, serious depth and a solidly-grounded moral perspective, and accurately researched history seamlessly integrated with the story.

Here and there, the book realistically reflects some of the pre- Victorian earthiness of the world being depicted, but this is never gratuitous nor obscene. It can be, in places, a very violent book- and it reminds us that human history is often, at bottom, simply a record of the cruel injustice humans are capable of --and people you like and care about are not infrequently on the receiving end of violence and cruel injustice here. (Though Godwin also reminds us that the villains in this world are humans, too --sometimes with virtues along with their vices, and/or with their own mental rationalizations of what they do.) The role of simple folk-Catholic Christianity in the lives of these people is treated sympathetically and positively- and especially through Father Beorns reflections and struggles, the author (even though Godwin himself isnt, as far as I know, a professed Christian) grapples a bit with the issues of the right Christian response to violent tyranny and injustice --a question that still occupies thinking Christians, in a world where the oppressors have only updated their weaponry and adopted Armani suits instead of chainmail.Bottom line (as Library Journal would put it :-)): highly recommended, to historical fiction fans and to any readers who like quality plotted fiction!

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