Top positive review
45 people found this helpful
highly informative, great illustrations
on June 9, 2000
This is a very readable yet scholarly book. Jesch uses a large number of diverse sources to help us gain an understanding of women in the Viking Age, and has organized the book according to these sources. Archaeological evidence from grave sites gives us much information about wealthy women in particular, and evidence from house-sites tell us more about ordinary women's lives. Evidence from runes is especially fascinating, as runic inscriptions are often short and cryptic. Yet here we often find what women actually wrote or accomplished, for example memorial stones they raised to honour dead relatives, or stones raised in honour of them building a bridge. Jesch looks at Scandinavian women travelling abroad (e.g. evidence from place names in England) and women mentioned in foreign writings, and how other cultures viewed them. She also looks at how they are portrayed in art, myths and poetry.
Finally Jesch extracts some common themes from these sources, and identifies some common female types, for example the warrior woman and the inciter. (For this, however, I would recommend "Old Norse Images of Women" by Jenny Jochens.)
There are numerous excellent photos and illustrations in this book, which really help bring it to life. I would highly recommend it to anyone interested in Viking/Norse history.