From Publishers Weekly
While much remains unknown about Queen Emma as an individual, her story offers a fascinating entrance into the tumultuous world of late Anglo-Saxon England. Daughter of the duke of Normandy, descended just a few generations from Viking invaders, Emma (985–1062) was the wife of two kings (the English Aethelred and, later, his Danish Viking successor, Cnut), the mother of two kings and great-aunt of the Norman William the Conqueror. Despite her secondary status as a woman, Emma can be seen as a key factor in this momentous transitional period, serving as a source of stability and continuity in uncertain times. London-based journalist O'Brien provides a lively account of the harsh realities of war and politics in this era, the vagaries of political marriage and the thin line between invaders and settlers. She examines without condescension the competing values of Christian and pagan custom. Unnecessary excursions into the present tense—mostly at the beginning of chapters—mar the tone of the narrative, which is otherwise nicely ironic about its self-serving and conflicting sources. These sources cannot definitively reveal whether Emma made her choices as a wife, mother and political actor out of calculation or necessity, but she was a woman who clearly took what fortune offered and built the best life she could from it. (Aug.)
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About the Author
Harriet O'Brien is a journalist based in London. She has written for the Independent and Condé Nast Traveler, among other publications. This is her second book.