For a synopsis of this novel provided by Goodreads please click here.
This was a well-written novel set in the reign of Henry VIII and primarily based upon the Dissolution of the Monasteries. It is unusual in it’s perspective as it is told from the viewpoint of two platonic lovers, Isabella Launder and Thomas Giffard. Isabella is the daughter of a farmer and Thomas the son of a lord and therefore a marriage between them is off the cards, causing Isabella to choose a nun’s life over marriage to any other man.
I was pleased to find that the author chose to portray Isabella’s decision in a positive light with no sense of martyrdom slapping the reader across the face. Instead the reader is encouraged to respect Isabella for her decision as it comes from a place of strength–she wishes to choose her own destiny–and she is not self-pitying with it in the slightest. Thomas cannot seem to let Isabella go however and even though he marries and becomes a well-liked usher to Henry VIII, he still finds himself visiting the convent where Isabella has since become prioress and their relationship continues.
Although I did enjoy the perspective of the Dissolution from a nun in a small and poor convent, for the most part I found the pace of the novel to be too slow and a little boring. Isabella’s convent was so far flung from the court of Henry VIII that news of the events transpiring there took a long time to reach the convent and usually came by word of Thomas Giffard. This is no doubt how things actually were for such a backwater place as Isabella’s convent, however it wasn’t great for fictional purposes. The author did succeed in providing the novel with an eerie sense of what was to come but choosing to write of a place so far from the main stream of events just made the novel drag. I was desperate for something more to happen than just another visit from Thomas Giffard. Once Henry VIII’s commissioners eventually arrived and kicked them all out of the convent the novel pretty much ended. Although I felt sympathy for their plight I probably could have felt a lot more than I actually did.
Overall I think this novel had an intriguing premise and some great character development, I was just disappointed with the monotony and slow pace throughout.