A truly excellent book.
I’ve read everything by Nicola Griffith, so I’ve been looking forward to this release with quite a lot of anticipation. I have to say, the book isn’t really what I expected. However, neither was it disappointing – not even close!
While Griffith’s previous work has been (excellent) science fiction and crime fiction, usually with a tense, quick-moving plot, ‘Hild’ is straight historical fiction. While there’s plenty of violence, the pace of the book is slow and deliberate, as we follow Hild as she grows from a precocious child to a remarkable young woman.
It’s a very ‘full’ narrative – as one person I was chatting with said; it’s rare to see such a ‘complete’ portrait of a woman. There’s a lot here – the book discusses religion, relationships, ethics, and shows people as they are, rejoicing and grieving, self-serving and self-sacrificing.
Reading the novel is an impressively immersive experience. Seventh-century Britain, here, comes to utterly convincing life. It’s clear that plenty of research went into the details of daily life, and, the characters living this life are complex, well-rounded, and believable. Always utterly human, while they are portrayed with all their flaws, you’ll miss them when the book eventually comes to a close.
However, Griffith is currently working on a sequel – so you won’t have to miss them forever. (I was glad to hear it, because I was particularly looking forward to seeing a portrayal of Whitby – St. Hilda was the founding abbess there, and I’ve visited quite a few times – but in this volume, her character hasn’t arrived there yet.)