Blood and Roses: One Family's Struggle and Triumph During England's Tumultuous Wars of the Roses

Helen Castor, Author
Helen Castor, Author . HarperCollins $25.95 (426p) ISBN 978-0-00-714808-0
Reviewed on: 03/06/2006
Release date: 04/01/2006
Hardcover - 347 pages - 978-0-571-21670-3
Paperback - 347 pages - 978-0-571-21671-0
Paperback - 426 pages - 978-0-00-716222-2
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Referring to publication of the Paston letters, the "literary sensation" of 1787, Horace Walpole said, "I cannot bear to be writing when I am so eager to be reading." The letters are a collection of roughly 1,000 documents written by four generations over the course of some 70 years that provide astonishingly intimate insight into late medieval English life during the tumultuous War of the Roses. The Pastons began as peasant farmers, rose to the status of minor Norfolk gentry and strove mightily to improve their lot through the courts, business and marriage. In this multigenerational biography, Castor tells their story as a sweeping whole and allows readers to understand these people's mental world, one so alien to us and yet strikingly familiar in the most unexpected of ways. Much of their story revolves around the acquisition of land and how they tried (not always successfully) to keep it out of the hands of their sometimes violent neighbors. Castor, a history fellow at Cambridge University, nicely summarizes the complexities of 15th-century politics and culture without losing her momentum. Beautifully paced and splendidly retold, Castor's tale of one family trying to survive and thrive against the odds is popular history at its best. 8 pages of color photos, 1 map. (Apr. 11)

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