I packed three books to take with me on holiday but I only read one during our week away. Another indicator of how much life has changed now that we have a toddler!
But if you are only going to read a book on holiday you want to make it a good one, and I am glad to say that The Harrowing by James Aitcheson was a great read.
The story is set in England in the aftermath of 1066. The Norman army marches through Northern England to quash an English rebellion once and for all. Every town and village is burned to the ground and every English man, woman or child they can find is slaughtered. In this chaos five strangers meet in the wild, each one on the run from the enemy and each one carrying their own secret.
I don’t normally read historical novels, I think I feel that they are at risk of becoming a history lesson rather than a story but I picked this one up quickly in the library and didn’t quite realise what it was until I got home. But I am so glad that I did pick it up. The story was compelling, the characters were rich and the stories within the story were beautifully told.
Without it becoming a dry history lesson, I did actually learn a fair bit about this chapter of English history that I have never considered before. Aitcheson really does get you to imagine what it must have been like to live through that awful and bloody conquest of England.
Refreshingly, the real hero of the story is the young ladies maid, Tova. We experience the flight for safety mostly through her eyes and among the group she becomes the main protagonist. She is a brilliant character and given a great arch in her development, without losing sight of what makes Tova, Tova.
If you, like me, normally shy away from historical adventures I can recommend that this is one that is worth exploring. It left me thinking of those today who have been driven out of their homes and are on the run for their lives and the importance of compassion and necessity of peace. Truly, truly, this book is worth a read.