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Debra Hamel is the mother of two preternaturally attractive girls and the author of a number of books about ancient Greece. She writes and blogs from her subterranean lair in North Haven, CT. Read more.


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THE BATTLE OF ARGINUSAE :
VICTORY AT SEA AND ITS TRAGIC AFTERMATH IN THE FINAL YEARS OF THE PELOPONNESIAN WAR
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KILLING ERATOSTHENES:
A TRUE CRIME STORY
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READING HERODOTUS:
A GUIDED TOUR THROUGH THE WILD BOARS, DANCING SUITORS, AND CRAZY TYRANTS OF THE HISTORY
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UNPACKING AN ANCIENT MYSTERY
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TRYING NEAIRA:
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SOCRATES AT WAR:
THE MILITARY HEROICS OF AN ICONIC INTELLECTUAL
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ANCIENT GREEKS IN DRAG:
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IT WAS A DARK AND STORMY TWEET:
FIVE HUNDRED 1ST LINES IN 140 CHARACTERS OR LESS
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PRISONERS OF THE PELOPONNESIAN WAR
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Schweighardt, Joan: Gudrun's Tapestry

  Amazon  

4 stars

Gudrun's Tapestry is set in the 4th century A.D., when Attila the Hun and his hordes of stocky, scar-faced warriors were menacing Europe, the western Roman Empire enjoying its last gasps. Gudrun is a Burgundian, whose people were decimated by Attila at the behest of the Romans during her childhood. We meet her as an adult, when she has made her way into the city of Attila under false pretences. She is kept prisoner there, and her story--told in the first person--jumps between her intrigues and survival strategies among the Huns and her earlier life among the Burgundians. The latter story builds to explain fully why she came to be with Attila.

Schweighardt's story is based on the history and legends of the Germanic and Hunnish tribes. I confess that I was ignorant of the relevant stories prior to reading the book. My experience as a reader will thus presumably have been rather different from that of someone who approached the book already knowing, for example, the significance of Gudrun to the Attila story. But one doesn't need to be well-versed in the period to enjoy the book.

As we are introduced to Gudrun's story in medias res, and because information Gudrun imparts in the book's first chapter is purposefully deceptive, I found the beginning of the story a bit confusing. It can also be confusing when Schweighardt's characters discuss the various machinations of the various political forces at play in the western Empire--Visigoths and Romans and Franks and Huns. As a final negative, I'll mention that the author's dialogue can be stilted:

"I laughed. 'Who would bother to seek out such a thing among the remains of the dead?'

"'No one, perhaps. I used the songs only as an example. There are many other ways in which writing has been useful to the Romans.'

"'Name them.'

"Edeco's eyes twinkled. 'I shall, my ignorant friend.'"

I can't really fault the author on this account, however, as the writing style seems to be a convention of the genre--why I've never understood (it's a reason I tend not to read much historical fiction).

All that aside, I must say that by the end of the book I had been thoroughly sucked into the story, the characters and the setting having become very real to me. The author's pace is leisurely: she takes the time to describe Gudrun's life among the Burgundians, for example, in great detail--hay drying in the fields and the seasonal slaughtering of animals, her father's grave, the servants' huts--so that the world she describes is quite vivid. The characters, too, are complex, their allegiances not always clear, and sometimes vacillating. There is a great deal of intrigue and deception in the lives of Gudrun's small circle! In short I am glad to have read the book, and I expect that scenes from it will stay with me for a long time to come.

Comments

1.

There is a *great* deal of intrigue. And then you can delete this and pretend you spelled it correctly.

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