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In a Dark Wood Wandering: A Novel of the Middle Ages

Overview


In this novel, set in the 15th century during the Hundred Years War between France and England, Hella Haasse brilliantly captures all the drama of one of the great ages of history.
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Overview


In this novel, set in the 15th century during the Hundred Years War between France and England, Hella Haasse brilliantly captures all the drama of one of the great ages of history.
Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Charles d'Orleans (1394-1465), shy nephew of mad French king Charles VI, is the focus of this narrative, first published in the Netherlands in 1949. ``This massive novel . . . is magisterial in its grasp of princely politics and military maneuvering in the era of the Hundred Years' War between France and England,'' said PW. ``As a fictional narrative of private life and human emotion, however, it lacks the vital spark.'' 50,000 first printing; QPB selection. (May)
Library Journal
This novel exemplifies historical fiction at its best; the author's meticulous research and polished style bring the medieval world into vibrant focus. Set during the Hundred Years War (1337-1453), the narrative creates believable human beings from the great roll of historical figures. Here are the mad Charles VI, the brilliant Louis d'Orleans, Joan of Arc, Henry V, and, most importantly, Charles d'Orleans, whose loyalty to France brought him decades of captivity in England. A natural poet and scholar, his birth and rank thrust him into the center of intrigue and strife, and through his observant eyes readers enter fully into his colorful, dangerous times. First published in the Netherlands in 1949, this book has never been out of print there and has been reprinted 15 times. This first English translation should find an enthusiastic audience. Highly recommended. BOMC featured selection; Quality Paperback selection.-- Starr E. Smith, Georgetown Univ. Lib., Washington, D.C.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780897333566
  • Publisher: Chicago Review Press, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 8/28/2005
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 592
  • Sales rank: 461,669
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.32 (d)

Meet the Author


Hella S. Haasse has written 17 novels as well as poetry, plays and essays, and has received many honors and awards including the Netherlands State Award for Literature. Her books have been translated into English, French, German, Swedish, Italian, Hungarian, Serbo-Croatian and Welsh.
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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 7, 2001

    No longer resist the muse.

    In a Dark Wood Wandering: A Novel of the Middle Ages by Hella Haasse. Highly recommended. This historical novel has its own interesting history. It was written by a Dutch author virtually unknown in the United States, then an English translation was begun by a postal employee who spoke no Dutch. After his death, it was lost for decades in a closet. The final English translation was completed more than 40 years after the novel was written by a Chicago editor who also spoke no Dutch¿but who did have the opportunity to get the author's approval. In a Dark Wood Wandering: A Novel of the Middle Ages is the fictionalized account of the life of medieval poet and statesman Charles d'Orléans, son of Louis d'Orléans and Valentine Visconti, nephew of Charles VI, known as the Mad King or the Well Beloved. The plot is historically accurate and linear, beginning with the time of Charles' birth (although not focusing on it) and using that occasion to fill in the historical and character blanks for the novice to French medieval history. Unlike other reviewers, I found the first 100+ pages a fascinating setting of the stage, during which the author succinctly conveys the familial, personal, and political relationships of France's houses, primarily Burgundy and Orléans. Although it is clear from the outset that Philippe the Bold of Burgundy is the nemesis of a united France and Louis Orléans (his nephew, brother to Charles VI, and father of Charles d'Orléans) is his less selfishly motivated, more trustworthy counterpart, the novel does not fall into the trap of black-and-white villains and heroes. Burgundy and his successors are not evil personified; they are men who know how to look out for their own power. Louis and Charles d'Orléans, both flawed in their occasional lack of will and indecisiveness, in their own way look after themselves, but also attempt to keep France's greater interests in mind. The most poignant moment early on is a conversation between Louis and his insane brother during one of his rare moments of lucidity¿and the ensuring reversion of power to Burgundy. Charles is born into not only all the internal conflicts within France and the ongoing battles with England, but into a war he must wage lifelong with himself¿the conflict between his poet's soul and his leader's/statesman's role. A scholar at heart, he must lead his house against Burgundy and his men against the English at Agincourt, where he is captured. Held prisoner for 25 years in England, Charles uses the time to become one of the leading poets of the Middle Ages, yearning for ideals of love, peace, and beauty¿the very things that have escaped him all of his predestined life. He will not find them upon his return to France, as he is once more swallowed by leviathan internal and external conflicts and the need for his skills as a negotiator/arbiter. He is, as he says in one poem, 'all rusted over with nonchaloir [nonchalance].' Finally, he promises he will 'not disavow the deepest desires of [his] heart' and 'no longer give [himself] up to the sin of unhappiness'¿a promise his position, his role, and the demands of political reality never allow him to fulfill. The novel features an array of complex characters and their relationships and interactions, a compelling plot, a fascinating time in the history of England and France, and a spectacular background portrayed in brilliant colours as in a tapestry. Best of all, the novel is meticulously researched and as historically accurate as any fiction can be. Partway through the book, I realised that this novel could, if handled correctly, make a near-perfect epic movie. In a Dark Wood Wandering has inspired me to look into the life and poetry of Charles d'Orléans, the history of Louis d'Orléans and Charles VI, incidental char

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2005

    Beautiful

    This is a beautiful story, and if you like historical fiction then you'll LOVE this book. It's bee a few years since I've read it, but I plan on reading it again soon because even after all of these years I still see the characters and setting vividly in my mind. This book will stick with you literally years after you've read it.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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