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Hild: A Novel Hardcover – November 12, 2013

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* In her first foray into historical fiction, Griffith explores the young life of Hild, the future St. Hilda of Whitby. Set in seventh-century Anglo-Saxon England, during the early years of Christianity there, the novel begins with the sudden death of Hild’s father, Lord Hereric. To secure the futures of her daughters, Hild’s ruthless and cunning mother embarks on a plan to hook their fate to the coattails of Edwin Snakebeard, Lord Hereric’s ambitious brother and king-to-be. Soon, Hild becomes Edwin’s trusted seer, and as the novel progresses, she attempts to stay in his favor, treading carefully among the large egos of the court and knowing that her survival depends as much on luck as it does on the accuracy of her predictions. Griffith expertly blends an exploration of seventh-century court life and a detailed character study of Hild as she balances a need for acceptance, love, and friendship and a desire to escape the strict gender roles of her time. While fierce battles and political intrigue feature prominently, so do the fascinating details of everyday life, particularly the lives of women. In short, Griffith triumphs with this intelligent, beautifully written, and meticulously researched novel. --Kerri Price

From Bookforum

Hild recounts the early years of an actual seventh-century English girl,[...] a remarkable child treated by those around her as though she possesses supernatural powers. [...] Griffith realistically represents the brutality of everyday life in this milieu. She is interested in exploring the costs of slavery for both parties to the trasnaction, the ramifications of illness or injury in an age of physical violence, and the effects of political change at the highest level on the lives of individual people. […] In its ambition and intelligence, Hild might best be compared to Hilary Mantel's novels about Thomas Cromwell. [...] [Griffith has a] sharp eye for what happens to plants and animals (especially birds) over the course of the seasons, as well as an understated and just-lyrical-enough prose style that delights the reader locally without ever distracting from the forward movements of character and plot. —Jenny Davidson

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 560 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; 1st Printing edition (November 12, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374280878
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374280871
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.8 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (274 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #342,114 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Nicola Griffith: a native of Yorkshire, England, now a dual US/UK citizen. Author of six novels (Ammonite, Slow River, The Blue Place, Stay, Always, Hild) and a multi-media memoir (And Now We Are Going to Have a Party: Liner notes to a writer's early life). Co-editor of the Bending the Landscape series of original queer f/sf/h stories. Essayist. Teacher. Blogger. Winner of the Washington State Book Award, the Nebula, Tiptree, World Fantasy Awards, and six (6) Lambda Literary Awards. (Also a BBC poetry prize, the Premio Italia, the Outstanding Mid-Career Novelist Prize, and others.) Wife of writer Kelley Eskridge (and co-founder of Sterling Editing).

Her latest novel, Hild--about the rise of one of the most powerful women of the early middle ages, now known as St Hilda of Whitby--is published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (US) and Blackfriars (UK).

Nicola lives in Seattle, where she occasionally emerges from the seventh century to drink just the right amount of beer and take enormous delight in everything.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

61 of 66 people found the following review helpful By MusingCrow VINE VOICE on November 27, 2013
Format: Hardcover
I don't know where to start. I read a lot, generally at least two books a week. I love large, thick books that can take awhile to read. When I love a book, the longer it lasts the better it is! I read with enjoyment. I don't spend my reading time with anything that I don't enjoy, which is why I seldom give books less than 3 stars here or on any other site on which I post my reviews. Actually, most of my reviews are 4-5 stars. This one should have at last 7 stars by that reckoning. Some books, very few actually, are finished but stay with me, like the after taste of a particularly fine something .. wine, chocolate, a favorite dessert or meal. This book is staying with me, and I am wishing that the sequel was already available so that I could continue to savor the reading.

Ms. Griffith is a master at prose. This book, in places, reads more like poetry, each word so finely tuned that they sing like a finely tuned violin or as the voices in a perfectly pitched acapella.

I have to admit to having a few issues with the uniqueness of names and places in this seventh century world that we enter when we open this book, but it did not take long for me to fall into the book and become one with the pages and the story.

We step into the story of St. Hilda, but this story gives so very much more. We walk in the life of the seventh century. We go to the dairy house and help make butter, we smell the torches, hearth lights and the blood of war. We feel the tensions of King and thegns, the stress as the old, polytheistic, religions give way to the new, Christ, religion.
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68 of 78 people found the following review helpful By Amelia Gremelspacher TOP 500 REVIEWER on November 12, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This novel, based in seventh century England, is well worth braving the intimidating names and language of that era. The names for people and and things were based on a bewildering blend of Irish, Ancient British, Latin, and Old English. I would advise the reader to allow oneself to coast a bit and have faith that the bewilderment will clear. Many of the unfamiliar terms can be taken in context successfully. As can often be the case, the extra effort is well worth it.

Hild is an extraordinary girl based on a real historic figure who went on to be venerated as a saint. In this volume, she has lost her father to poisoning. Her mother is a woman who uses nature, herbs, and instinct to survive in the court of her brother, the king. In stunning sequences, Hild uses her mother's teachings and her own skills to meld her mind into the world around her to detect the rhythms and meanings held there. Daughters are regarded as natural peace singers, and the added skills of the gifted woman are treasured. Witchcraft and ancient skills and religions are assumed. Hild rises to be a royal advisor at a dizzyingly young age.

Britain was a land swept by scourges of war. A civilization lives within the strength if its king, and peace is dearly won. With the bands of rulers travel the conflicting religions, including the new religion of "Christ." Griffin achieves a breathtaking view of life in this land of treacherous currents. This writer has been able to take the reader into a framework in which the ancient language and the rhythm of the days become familiar and immediate. "Hild" is a saga in the true tradition of the heroic journey, well worth the trip.
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53 of 62 people found the following review helpful By eyes.2c on November 14, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
Hild the child that would become Saint Hilda of Whitby. Griffith's novel illuminates the person Hild might have been in her earliest years. The known is cleverly interwoven into the storyline. Hild's father, Prince Hereric, was nephew to King Edwin of Northumbria. He was poisoned. Hild was brought up in the court of King Edwin.
Hild's wyrd (personal destiny) is her path. She is 'Light of the World'. She carries a seax, a type of dagger, and she stands tall.
Her sister Herewith's wyrd is different. She will be a queen.
I found it hard to resolve the description of Hild in her very young years. She is marked as special from birth. A child heavy with her future wrapped around her. Even as young as three, Hild's clarity of thought and perception is prodigious, and later as still a child not yet come into her womanhood, her wisdom is more like that of a mature woman. After all wisdom is what Hilda of Whitby will become renowned for, along with having contributed in the christianizing of Britain.
In this fictional account of Hild's life, just as the Irish priest Fursey did, I found it sad that Hild was never allowed to be a maid, young and carefree. Her feet are set on her path from birth, thrust there by her wyrd and kept there by her mother, Breguswith.
Seer to a King, a prophet, Hild learns early to watch and understand many aspects of her world, be it nature, animals, the wind, the season for plants, the stars, the flow of the rivers. She studied behaviour, carefully watching people and identifying their tell-tail tags, gauging their interactions and reactions. Hild studies the languages of the various peoples of her land, including the roman priests. She learns to read and values the gift of communication it is.
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