Mastodon The Writing Desk: Book review: A Tapestry of Treason, by Anne O'Brien

6 July 2019

Book review: A Tapestry of Treason, by Anne O'Brien

Available from Amazon UK and Amazon US

1399: Constance of York, Lady Despenser, proves herself more than a mere observer in the devious intrigues of her magnificently dysfunctional family, The House of York.

A Tapestry of Treason begins with an attempt to foretell the future, and I found myself trying to recall what I knew of the actual events of the time. Although I know a great deal about King Henry V, I knew less about how his father claimed the throne - and little of the story of Constance of York, Countess Despenser.

Anne O'Brien uses first-person narrative to take us deep within the troubling world of this amazing woman. It took me a little while to warm to Constance’s often cynical view of those around her. A deeply flawed character, it’s hard not to judge her against modern standards until we learn why she behave as she does.

Evocative and captivating, this wonderfully researched book is a good example of why we need historical fiction to ‘fill in the gaps’ of the historical record. On the face of it, Constance deserves everything she gets (and loses), yet we feel her frustration of having to watch from the sidelines of what is very much a man’s world.

I particularly liked the used of the tapestry of the title to provide threads of gold and silk which run through the narrative, reminding us that, even in the hardest times, this is a world of royal privilege.

This is the tenth historical fiction novel from Anne O'Brien. I have read them all, and in my view this is the best so far. Highly recommended.

Tony Riches

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About the Author

Anne O’Brien was born in West Yorkshire. After gaining a BA Honours degree in History at Manchester University and a Master’s in Education at Hull, she lived in East Yorkshire for many years as a teacher of history. She now lives with her husband in an eighteenth-century timber-framed cottage in the depths of the Welsh Marches in Herefordshire, on the borders between England and Wales, where she writes historical novels. The perfect place in which to bring medieval women back to life. Find out more at Anne's website and find her on Facebook and Twitter @anne_obrien

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