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Book Commentary/Review – THE BURNING CANDLE by Lisa Yarde February 16, 2013

Posted by rwf1954 in book review, books, historical fiction, Lisa Yarde, medieval period.
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The Burning Candle by Lisa Yarde is a compelling historical novel recreating the life of Isabel de Vermandois, a young woman who finds herself thrust into the early days of Norman rule over newly conquered England—just before the era of Ken Follette’s Pillars of the Earth. Yarde brings accurate history and informed speculation together with a mastery of plot and dialogue to offer an entertaining and informative read.

The Burning Candle is historical fiction/biography. We follow Isabel de Vermandois’ life from pre-pubescence to middle age—every event is depicted from her point-of-view. This brings us deeply into her character. We feel her frustration with her parents’ abuse and her frustration as her life seems but a tool for others, with Isabel having no control over what her life will be. Here she is, with regal blood coursing through her veins, with talent and intelligence, but subject to the whims and desires of others, mainly older men. At first her marriage to a man her father’s age seems an improvement in her situation. But it is actually a descent into torment as her husband hides a life-affecting secret, and brutalizes her in ways that make her parents look benign in comparison.

Years later, after giving birth to a number of male heirs for older husband, she finds herself finally with a choice, a choice brought to her with a daring move made by a man she had reviled as nearly evil incarnate. Does Isabel finally make her own choice, or does she succumb to duty? This is the dramatic question at the climax of The Burning Candle.

Lisa Yarde demonstrates a command of her craft as she weaves an entertaining story out of a lesser-known bit of history. The depth of her research is evident in the detailed historical note at the end of The Burning Candle. If you are a reader looking for a slice of history presented in an entertaining way, every bit as worthy as a book by masters like Sharon Kay Penman or Elizabeth Chadwick, The Burning Candle will be a great choice for your next book to read.

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