Prior to reading Godiva by Nicole Galland, all I knew about the famous historical figure was that she was a woman who rode a horse while in the nude. I didn’t know why she did it or even what time period she lived in. Most of my historical knowledge admittedly comes from reading fiction, though if I am interested enough I will try to find more historically factual articles or books to read.
My requirements for a great historical fiction novel are pretty simple: great character development, descriptive writing, and enough relevant time period details so I can easily follow along with the story. Godiva is set around 1040 and is prefaced with a historical note regarding the Dane Harthacnut who became king of England and created a new tax called the heregeld. After his death, his half-brother Edward became the king. He did not do away with the heregeld, and a land-owning woman named Godiva spoke out against him. In an attempt to shame her, Edward demanded she ride naked on a horse across her land for all the people to see.
In all honesty, I probably should have read some actual non-fiction about Godiva before attempting to read this book. Perhaps if I had, I wouldn’t have felt as lost as I did. Thankfully I know from a previous historical fiction book that in addition to the king, there were wealthy land owners that governed over a specific area of people. This is something I wish Galland had explained in the book, however. I think anyone not familiar with this time period is going to experience confusion.
I wanted to like all of the characters I encountered in this book, but especially Godiva. Unfortunately, I didn’t. Godiva used her sexuality and flirted her way out of situations when she upset her husband or wanted to manipulate another man. I would have warmed up to her more if she’d shown some sort of intelligence not related to her features. I liked Godiva’s childhood friend, Edgiva, slightly more but some of the statements she made did not sit well with me.
Overall, I was not impressed with Galland’s writing or storytelling. It didn’t meet any of my simple requirements for a good historical fiction. The characters were obnoxious, the writing was not very detailed, and nothing happened other than conversations that finally led up to Godiva’s ride. I had high hopes for this one since I’d just purchased I, Iago for my Kindle a few weeks ago. Perhaps readers with more knowledge of this time period and the title character will be able to relate to it better than I did.
Jennifer graduated from the University of Utah with a BA in English. She occasionally dabbles with her own fiction writing, particularly with the Young Adult and Paranormal genres. She currently resides in Utah with her husband and daughter.
Review copy was provided free of any obligation by William Morrow Paperbacks. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.