Until recently it had been a very long time since I had read anything by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles. And now two books have come together within only a couple of months. They both made me wonder why I had spent so long without reading anything by her.

I thoroughly enjoyed Goodbye Piccadilly, the first in a series of novels following life on the home front during the First World War. The Founding, my latest read, is the first in Harrod-Eagles' best loved series, a long series of novels following the Morland family from the Wars of the Roses to the twentieth century.

Family novels can all get to read rather the same after a while, so I do hope this isn't what's going to happen with the Morland Dynasty, as The Founding was a superb read. Harrod-Eagles deftly handles a vast cast list, and really makes you get to know and like the family at the centre of the plot. Besides this though it's a great lesson in how to write an historical novel. Set against the backdrop of the Wars of the Roses, Harrod-Eagles supplies enough detail so that you know exactly what is going on (not easy with such a complex subject) along with little details of everyday life that make the period both rather alien, and often oddly familiar.

Eleanor Courtney, the central matriarchal figure, owes her allegiance to the family who brought her up, but a chance meeting with Richard of York (the father of Richard III) will mean that her loyalty will always lie in the Yorkist camp. Her marriage to a wealthy sheep farmer from York will strengthen this.

Harrod-Eagles cleverly places her family firmly on one side of the Wars, while not ignoring the way in which the Wars would split families and friends. Slightly unusually, for when the novel was published (1980), she is pro-Richard III, and there are many details here that were mildly controversial at the time, some of which, however, have since been reinforced by discoveries surrounding the finding of Richard's body. I do wonder how much else of her novel may indeed be accurate, especially the many contradictions to the propaganda disseminated by the Tudors.

Whether you're a Lancastrian or a Yorkist, there is much to think about here. It's a charming story, well-told. The odd anachronism is easily forgivable besides the sweeping drama both of the Morland family and of the historical background they are set against. I thoroughly enjoyed The founding, and if you're into historical novels, you will probably enjoy this too, whether or not you want to read the rest of the series.


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