Re: Re: British History Book Club

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Some thoughts about “The Last Kingdom.”  Below is from a review I found online that I thought summed up the book in a nice way:The author creates a large and twisted tapestry in the tale. Childhood friends and villains show up again and again in Uhtred’s life, and they bring wanted and unwanted changes. One of the most telling events in Uhtred’s young life is when Sven, the son of Kjartan, kidnaps Ragnar’s young daughter and strips her out in the forest. Uhtred and Ragnar’s son save her just in time. Later, though, Ragnar takes his vengeance on Sven by blinding him in one eye. Kjartan is a shipbuilder, an important man in the Viking community, but he’s powerless before Ragnar’s rage. However, that act of vengeance comes back to haunt Ragnar and Uhtred. Nothing is ever forgiven among these people, and they carry long grudges.The battle scenes are particularly harsh and described well. I felt as though I were standing in the shield wall next to Uhtred when he faced battle. I could feel Wasp-Sting and Serpent-Breath in my hand as he used them to defeat and kill his enemies.The rock and roll of the waves against the Viking longships as they journeyed to other lands and fought battles on the sea is amazing. Cornwell brings that whole world to life so easily it’s breathtaking.The The Last Kingdom ends while Uhtred is young and has yet to see his newborn son. He’s on his way there on the last page of this first book, and if I know anything about his life, the way isn’t going to be easy. I can’t waitRead more: enjoyed reading the book, though it was a bit gorier than I care to read.  I realize that it was realistic for the time period.  Talk about life being brutish and short.  It must have been a scary time to live in England.  Wondering when the Vikings might come and raid your town, kill people and steal valuable things and knowing, at least for some period of time, that you were pretty helpless to do anything about it would have been terrifying.  That is true terrorism.Some things I wondered about and wonder if anyone else had ideas about:1.  Was Uhtred a Dane or a Saxon? At first, I thought he was glad that he had been kidnapped by the Danes, but when he spent time with the Saxons, particularly after Ragnar's death, he seemed to embrace his identity as a ruler of Northumbria and a Saxon.2.  His relationship with Breeder.She seemed more like a sister, but was clearly more than that to Uhtred, yet she readily went off with a group of folks (I am blanking on who she went off with).  I guess that gave Uhtred the chance to find love, at least long enough to have a son, though at the end of the first book he has yet to see this boy.  It seems like many books about war, having someone to fight for and get back to makes the battles more poignant and also seems to ensure that the main character survives to fight another day.3.  Fighting.I wondered how much research Bernard Cornwell had to do to write such realistic seeming battle scenes.  I don't know much at all about the man, other than what I read on his website.  He clearly knows his history.  I get the sense that Cornwell orchestrates some battles in his head.  I wonder how much of the details of historical battles are available to read or did Cornwell imagine the kind of battles that the Danes must have fought.4.  Danish crueltyI thought that the fighting between the Danish clans was interesting.  The incident between Sven and Uhtred that winds up costing Ragnar's entire village's lives was somewhat minor, yet the punishment was pretty harsh (blinding Sven).  Even being a Dane would have been pretty hard back then.5.  AlfredI don't know much about him, but have enjoyed learning a bit about the man through this story.  I found a book review from the Guardian newspaper (2004) in which they note that Cornwell's description of Alfred is certainly not the heroic image portrayed by the Victorians.  When we first meet Alfred he is feeling wretched about having raped a servant girl.  The tension between his piety and his passion is interesting.  The Guardian notes that Cornwell used as a source a biography commissioned by Alfred himself by a Welsh man.  It seems that this would be rather true to the man's life (Alfred's life, that is).Well, those are some thoughts.  I did enjoy the book and will try to find time to listen to the others in the series.  I think Cornwell has 5 written.