Monday, May 3, 2010

Book Review of Within The Hollow Crown: A Valiant King's Struggle to Save His Country, His Dynasty, and His Love by Margaret Campbell Barnes

Within the Hollow Crown: A Valiant King's Struggle to Save His Country, His Dynasty, and His Love
The blurb:
A reluctant king, a desperate nation, and the most misunderstood reign in history....

Unlike his father the Black Prince, or his namesake King Richard the Lionheart, Richard II never really wanted to be king. But the mantle of royalty is thrust upon his shoulders at age eleven, in a time when England is racked by unrest and class warfare. A leader unexpected as he is inexperienced, Richard must find a way to triumph over a fierce conflict more destructive than any foreign enemy Blessed with the ability to take the pulse of the common people, Richard proves himself a true Plantagenet in standing down a peasant revolt.

In the midst of a tender, exquisite love with Anne of Bohemia, Richard finds the strength to outwit the schemes of his uncles and cousin Henry Bolingbroke and stay on the throne, holding the country in the palm of his hand. But as Richard slowly begins to lose the common touch by which he had ruled so brilliantly, he needs to find the courage to consider England.

Widely acclaimed historical fiction master Margaret Campbell Barnes showcases the true spirit of a much-maligned king whose imaginative and intelligent spirit broke hard against the war-mongering world, and who wanted nothing more than the love of England.

Within The Hollow Crown was my first exposure to Margaret Campbell Barnes. In the novel, Margaret Campbell Barnes tells the story of King Richard II with sympathy. She shows us what life was like for the young king who was not as athletic and as martial as his friends and cousins. His royal uncles and their friends viewed his sensitivity, fondness for art and literature as signs of weakness and an almost feminine nature. Richard II's close friendships were sometimes looked at suspiciously and as grounds for questioning his sexuality.

Richard II's father was Edward, the Black Prince, who led successful military campaigns against the French. His father's popularity was an advantage, but Richard II felt that he always compared with his father and found wanting. We see this early in the novel:

"Yes, sir," agreed Richard again. It always saved argument to agree with the uncles. But he wasn't so sure. Without being able to put the matter into words, he was beginning to find out that being the son of some public hero like his father or his grandfather precluded the possibility of being liked without comparison.

I hadn't been familiar with Richard II's story, but the book made me want to learn more about him, to see which version of history is more accurate. Regardless of the truth, Margaret Campbell Barnes gives us insight into the moments that shaped Richard II as a person and as a monarch. For those who enjoy historical fiction, Within The Hollow Crown will be a fascinating read.

ISBN-10: 1402239211 - Paperback
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark; Reprint edition (April 1, 2010), 368 pages.
Review copy provided by the publisher.

About the Author:
Margaret Campbell Barnes grew up in London. Her historical novels include Brief Baudy Hour, My Lady of Cleves, With All My Heart, Isabel the Fair, The Tudor Rose, King's Fool, and The King's Bed. More than 2 million copies of her books have been sold worldwide.

Thank you to Danielle and SourceBooks for this review opportunity!

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