So excited that Grendel’s Mother has been chosen among 100 Must-Read Medieval Historical Fiction Novels by Book Riot. I’m especially honored since my novel is listed with other books I’ve long loved by authors like the incomparable Sharon Kay Penman, Tracy Chevalier, Sharan Newman, Melvyn Bragg, and Ellis Peters. I’m a newcomer, along with the wonderful Paul Kingsnorth, whose innovative The Wake I teach.
I was especially pleased since my novel sits in the same company of one of my favorite books of all time: Katherine by Anya Seton. I still remember where I first read it: on the main island of Orkney in late October 1994. My husband and I were living in London at the time and took a week’s holiday to that wind-swept area. Our self-catering home was nestled by the standing stones called the Ring of Brodgar.
And I read for hours, chilled by the wind whistling around the panes, but warmed by the passionate intrigue of Richard II’s court and the tempestuous love affair between Katherine Swynford and John of Gaunt.
I like to imagine Katherine meeting my heroine, Brimhild. They would have a lot to talk about, especially how erotic desire can lead to great power but also to disaster and tragedy. Perhaps Seton’s book was, without my knowing it, influencing me as I wrote my own novel. They are set in radically different times and cultures, but one thing never changes: the power of women and the mystery of how they gain agency in a world designed to thwart their hopes and dreams.