Originally published nearly a decade before the movie Braveheart was released, Andrew Fisher’s biography William Wallace is a concise, thoroughly researched, and entertaining telling of Wallace’s life.
In this book, Wallace’s life is portrayed with as much detail as possible with the relatively low amount of source material on his life. The book starts with a good account of the conflicts leading up to the Scottish War of Independence; the death of Alexander III, the problems of John Balliol, and Edward I’s eventual invasion of Scotland. This sets the stage for the story of the uprisings that happened around Scotland, one of which is Wallace’s, that eventually merges with Andrew Murray’s for the Battle of Stirling Bridge (1297). Then goes on to tell the story of his time as a Guardian, the major defeat at the Battle of Falkirk (1298), his return to leading small raids, and his eventual capture and execution (1305).
Throughout the book, Fisher incorporates the material from a variety of resources to not only give a great account of Wallace’s life, but also a thorough portrayal of the major contemporary players in the political situation of the time, on both sides of the conflict.
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11 September 1297
Agincourt is the first book I’ve read by Bernard Cornwell. Throughout the story I was struck by the level of detail he put into explaining various aspects of medieval life, even when the explanation did not contribute significantly to the plot of the story. It shows the real in-depth research that went into the creation of this book.
Some examples of this are…
These are not dry explanations though, they were fit quite naturally into brief sentences and paragraphs throughout the narrative…
“The dark heartwood of the bow’s belly was stiff and unyielding. It resisted bending, while the light-colored sapwood of the bow’s spine did not mind being pulled into a curve, yet, like the heartwood, it wanted to straighten and it possessed a springiness that, released from pressure, whipped the stave back to its normal shape. So the flexible spine pulled and the stiff belly pushed, and so the long arrow flew.” (p.93)
So by the end, the reader has been given a thorough history lesson on life during this time period along with a compelling story.
The story itself is about a young Englishman, Nicholas Hook, who gets into trouble and becomes an outlaw, but eventually ends up in the service of Henry V during preparations for a campaign into France that would eventually involve the Battle of Agincourt.
Hook is possibly schizophrenic. He hears the voices of long dead saints who occasionally talk to him and give him encouraging words or comfort him in some way. Or perhaps the author meant to suggest that Hook was actually divinely blessed, however the saints never seemed to tell him anything that he couldn’t have simply imagined.
Overall an interesting story, and an excellent look at day-to-day life and warfare of the time period. I listened to the audiobook version from Audible, but it’s also available on Kindle, and in Paperback and Hardcover.
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25 October 1415