Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Harold the King by Helen Hollick

An Epic Retelling of the tide of Events that led to the Norman Conquest of England, through the Charismatic and compelling characters at its heart

England 1044, The Godwines are on the most powerful families in the country. As each of Earl Godwine’s six sons reach maturity, so they are rewarded with title and influence. Harold Godwin has inherited his father’s diplomatic skills – but none of his lust for battle.

In Normandy, William, bastard son of a duke, is trained to be a solider. A charismatic leader, he inspires those who pledge loyalty with the promise of ever greater victories.

King Edward both influenced and angered by his powerful mother Emma, is England’s reluctant monarch. His passions lie away from the tedium of government, as his ambitious wife Edith, soon discovers.

Meanwhile, Harold stature grows – and with it the pressure to abandon his love, Edyth Swanneck, and make an alliance of political advantage. William’s spirited young bride Mathilde has brought him land and wealth to further his cause – and a stormy partnership.

As a Power struggle begins to emerge, events take a dramatic and bloody turn. For the ultimate prize is England’s royal crown…

I got this book because one day at work I was bored so I decided to look at the library catalogue and this book grabbed my attention. There is one problem with ordering library books online, you never know how big there are until you pick it up. When I got this one I was quickly filled with dread, this book is just shy of 700 pages. I was concerned that the story would get bogged down with details. However once I started reading I was pleasantly surprise, yes the book is detailed and it involves a lot of character, however it flows really nicely.

This is the story of Harold Godwines battle to do what is best for England and what is best for his family. This story spans over 20 years and two countries, with many other countries making an appearance.

This story was set a long time ago yet the themes, Jealousy, Greed and Love in story a still very relevant and relatable today.

The Godwines are a very powerful family in England, and the King and his adviser Robert Champart do not always like this. There are many battles and many family problems through out the novel and this gives you the chance to get to know all of the important people. I felt that Harold really came alive through his love story with Edyth. He falls in love with Edyth shortly after he becomes Earl of East Anglia, Essex, Cambridgeshire and Huntingdonshire however as Edyth is not of noble birth and Harold can not take her as a Christian wife but he can take her as a handfast wife which was the tradition of the old laws. While Harold is the main character the story also focuses on William the Bastard, King Edward and most of Harold family.

The following quote from Harold to his son I think sums up the struggle that Harold faced throughout out the novel

“Which takes precedence, danger to yourself and your immediate family, or to the wider spread of the people you hold responsibility for? You or Your Country”

Overall I really enjoyed this book and found it rich in detail and a compelling read. Also I really liked the fact the author included a note at the back of the book explaining how she came to some conclusions and also what she modified within her story.


  1. Harold the King is my favourite of Helen Hollick's novels. I've always had a soft spot for Harold, and thought he was very unlucky to have to fight Harald Hardrada and then William within a few days of each other. Agree about the importance of a good Author's Note, too. I feel slightly disappointed if there isn't one, because I always want to know what's history and what the author made up.

  2. I've been meaning to read Helen Hollick for ages! One of these days I will get around to it!

  3. I have this one on my shelf. I'm looking forward to reading it!