1066: What Fates Impose by G. K. Holloway is a historical novel about events leading up to the 1066 Battle of Hastings, when Duke William, or William the Conqueror, defeated the forces of England’s King Harold.
The book begins in 1087 in Normandy, with William on his death bed. Told in the present tense, it shows William’s remorse over the death and destruction he brought to England and his attempt at atonement by not naming an heir. The reader is then taken back to 1045, to the court of King Edward, and his uneasy relationship with Godwin, the Earl of Wessex and his family, and details the personal relationships and palace intrigues that led to the fateful 1066 battle.
The author moves back and forth, from England, across the channel to the Vatican and the courts of mainland Europe, and north to Scandinavia, introducing the historical characters who played a critical role in events that culminated with the crushing defeat of the English by William’s Norman army.
Most of the book after the first chapter is focused primarily on the Godwin family, heavily on Harold Godwin, who became King Harold after the death of Edward. Harold is the most fully developed character, with William, even though he only really appears about mid-way through, the second most important character. The final part of the book, a detailed account of the Battle of Hastings, though fiction, reads very credibly, and the author does a great job showing the horrors of battle in that era.
A fascinating glimpse into an ancient period, filled with rich details of court life, and the often complex relationships between and among Old World royal families, and the role played by the old Roman Catholic Church and its popes. At times, though, the author’s in depth knowledge of the period intrudes on the story. Things come to a near standstill as he offers extremely detailed information about such things as the making of a ceremonial sword. While this is interesting information, unfortunately, it does little to move the story forward. In addition, after the first chapter, transitions from one time period to another, or from scene to scene, are so abrupt a reader has to pause to become reoriented.
This is a great book for anyone interested in the history of early England and its relationship with Europe. I give it four stars.