The Proud Villeins

Valerie Anand, Author St. Martin's Press $19.95 (310p) ISBN 978-0-312-08282-6
A sweeping, often moving tale of English medieval life, this novel depicts historical events--ranging from 1040 to 1215, when the Magna Charta was signed--from the perspective of a family of serfs. When Norman knight Ivon de Clairpont is taken prisoner in England, he repeatedly tries to escape from his Danish master's holdings near York. Crippled during his last attempt, he grudgingly settles down to life as a thrall, marrying another serf but continually reminding their children of their heritage as free people. His grandson, Ivon Oddeyes, is caught up in the harrying of the North--the execution of all men of arms-bearing age and the ravaging of the landordered by William the Conqueror because of the region's continued support of King Harold. Having hated Normans all his life, young Ivon, a talented potter, rejects a chance to gain freedom by denying his French heritage. Later generations suffer the terrible fates that awaited serfs (villeins) who attempted to better themselves. Anand's (Crown of Roses) robust novel, the first of a projected series, depicts the Middle Ages in a more realistic light than is often the case. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 01/31/2000
Release date: 02/01/2000
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