- Paperback: 110 pages
- Publisher: Createspace Independent Pub (4 December 2015)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1519695675
- ISBN-13: 978-1519695673
- Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 0.7 x 22.9 cm
- Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
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Anne of Geierstein Paperback – Import, 4 Dec 2015
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So, when I, almost by accident, watched Lucy Worsley’s recent Wars of the Roses documentary, I quickly took a double-take. In that vid Worsley (who by-the-way is drop-dead gorgeous clad in red) says that Walter Scott blandly calls the clash between York and Lancaster a “civil conflict” (“times of rapid revolution”, page 41, and “civil wars” pages 44 and 65 are Scott’s literal wording) that suggests those wars were simply a dark period until his statement in the novel “Anne of Geierstein” (1829). I was intrigued by Lucy commentary (having discovered Walter Scott’s novels during a graduate school British history course three decades ago.) Apparently, “The Maid of the Midst” introduced an era of reconsideration of pre Tudor times across the 19th century English speaking world. Lucy also concluded in the brief video that Scott proffers a number of interesting initial ideas and images that took on lives of their own some becoming lingua franca for medieval Romance novels. Of course, I had to investigate.
I quickly ordered “Anne of Geierstein”, and with Amazon lightening-like speedy delivery to my castle’s moated front gate (thank you very much), within a couple sunsets I was devouring Sir Walter’s Wars of the Roses novel by fireside of hearth and home. This remarkable book has proved to be a classic tale of love, intrigue, honor, revenge, courage, chivalry, and hope. Scott’s all-knowing narrator guides the narrative without any main character or personality to clog up its forward motion. All the characters and settings are interesting. Indeed, with only a brief part near the beginning the book as the Baroness of Arnheim Castle, one wonders why Anne of Geierstein receive the title credit? Any of the characters might have named the novel.
The book tells three different stories with the various character weaving through their plots: About Charles the Duke of Burgundy wresting with his rebellious Swiss subjects, about two Lancastrian nobles attempting to raise an army to re-invade England and oust the Yorkist King Edward IV, and about the declining weeks of broken Lancastrian Queen Margaret of Anjou in her father’s (King Rene of Province) care. One may wonder why Sir Walter picked this time (1476) and these desperate personalities for review.
This is a great read, even after 189 years! Walter Scott’s pre-Victorian writing style is interesting, colorful, frilly, flowery, and fun (with words like “Ere,” “Forsooth,” “pallet-bed,” “wretch,” “wench,” “wiseacres”, “unutterably”, “robber barons”, “debonairly,” Gaud”, and many more). And his wisdom “For truth can offend no reasonable man,” “Modesty in youth is ever commendable,” “men lure no hawks with empty hands,” “tyranny drives all men to arms,” “love is the parent of brave action,” etc. is and will always be timely. It is, also, interesting that Scott introduces the opal as the enchanted jewel that “is most fatal to it possessor”. Especially curious, finally, is his opening chapter one statement regarding “in modern times” (page 2) from 1829!
Be warned, however, my 2015 edition is without publisher credit or location, not table of contents, and any title (or even words) on the outside spine. It could disappear in your library. It is published with tiny words-fonts (to squeeze the entire book into only 107 pages!). There is not extra space between chapters or before the index. In fact, the front title page has only five large words: “Anne of Geierstein Walter Scott”. This book is recommended to everyone who is interesting in the Wars of the Roses, 19th century pre-Victoria novels, Queen Margaret of Anjou, Charles the Bold Duke of Burgundy, Sir Walter Scott, or just an interesting story. Take a look!
*I put the book down a few weeks ago and now I can't even remember the hero's name.
The story is set in the 15th century and begins with two exiled Englishmen struggling along a mountain path in Switzerland. They get into difficulties and are rescued by Anne a beautiful young Swiss. The two Englishmen are Lancastrians on a secret mission to the court of Charles the Bold, Duke of Burgundy. They hope to gain his help in regaining the English crown from the Yorkist Edward IV. Anne's family are involved in the politics of the newly independent Swiss Confederation and likewise intend to visit Charles with complaints about his conduct towards the Swiss nation. The two groups decide to travel together. This gives the young Lancastrian Arthur a chance to court Anne. But much stands in the way of their union, including politics, war and a rival known as the Young Bear of Berne.
When Scott focuses on Switzerland and the romance between Anne and Arthur, the story goes very well. He delves into Anne's unusual family history, which apparently involves supernatural elements and magic skills which may have been passed onto Anne from her grandmother, enabling her to perform feats which defy explanation. Scott also involves his characters with a shadowy organization known as the Vehmgericht or Secret Tribunal, which deals with people who have evaded justice by kidnapping them trying them and executing them if necessary. When Scott is concerned with these aspects of the story, the novel flows and is a great read. Unfortunately in the second half of the novel, Scott's title character Anne retreats into the background and the romantic elements of the plot give way to the politics of the court of Charles the Bold. There follows a long account of the various schemes and intrigues of the period, which eventually becomes rather tedious. Moreover Scott goes into so much detail regarding the power politics of the 15th century that he does not allow himself enough time for the novel's conclusion. The resolution of many of the plot elements is hurried and unsatisfying.
There is much to enjoy in Anne of Geirstein. It shows that even Scott's lesser novels are well written and worth reading. It may not be one of the great Waverley novels, but fans of Scott will still find much here to enjoy.