Monday, November 26, 2007

The Confession of Piers Gaveston

The Confession of Piers Gaveston
by Brandy Purdy

(iUniverse / 0-595-45523-2 / July 2007 / 190 pages / $13.95)

(Please pardon the delay of the completion of this review. The review was halfway completed when a computer glitch caused its sudden, unexpected demise, leaving me in a disgusted funk. The review should be completed as soon as I get my mojo back. Thank you for your patience. The iUBR management.)

Brandy Purdy’s The Confession of Piers Gaveston offers a new spin on an old story. The conceit employed in this historical fiction novel is that the story has been composed as if Piers Gaveston kept a diary of his life and affair with King Edward II. Ms. Purdy researched this particular piece of English history from the 1300’s and composed her tale in the first person as Gaveston is telling his own personal story of tragedy and scandal. Susan Higginbotham’s The Traitor’s Wife offers a broad view of the scandalous, gay affair, including many details involving a soap opera full of characters. I recommend that any potential reader of The Confession of Piers Gaveston read The Traitor’s Wife first to understand the complete background of Piers Gaveston’s story. In the good old days of The Seventies, when rock and roll was enjoying explosive growth, The Traitor’s Wife would be the unnamed band’s hit album and The Confession of Piers Gaveston would be a very good solo album by one of the group’s key members. Once you have come to understand the overall story, Brandy Purdy’s book breathes life into the heart of the scandal. 

Another book I want to mention in comparison to The Confession of Piers Gaveston is Anne Rice’s Cry to Heaven. As a big fan of Anne Rice’s witches and vampires, I read this 1982 book from another genre many years ago. I was distinctly impressed by the quality of the composition and storyline about a kid in eighteenth century Italy who is kidnapped, castrated, and sold to the opera. What does this have to do with Brandy Purdy’s book? I’m not crazy about the idea of reading a book about a homosexual love affair, either, but both books sincerely impressed me with their quality. Both historical fiction novels are better than you might expect from their subject matter.

The painting on the front cover does not impress me, although the overall cover design is quite professionally done. Ms. Purdy has a common comma allergy, too, but neither of these issues does much to lessen the impact of this quality novel of historical fiction. Brandy has already submitted her second novel to iU. The six wives of Henry VIII will be its star characters, and I have high hopes for that book’s quality and success. The Confession of Piers Gaveston is an honor to the iUniverse imprint and Brandy Purdy is one of the brand’s most professional authors.

<>See Also: Nan Hawthorne's Interview with Brandy Purdy
Susan Higginbotham's Interview with Brandy Purdy
Tabitha's B&N Review
Tabitha's Authors Den Review
Brandy Purdy's Website
The Boleyn Wife

1 comment:

Kit moss said...

Purdy's and Susan's books are not birds of a feather but horses of a different color, to offer a bestial set of clichés. Therefore I can't agree with Floyd's recommendation that you read Susan's first, then Brandy's. Susan's book, The Traitor's Wife, is a fine example of the style of historical fiction as dramatization of historical events and people that makes up a good sized portion of historical fiction, mine included. Purdy's on the other hand stands apart from the genre and within it to touch on more universal themes.

The novel is not about a notorious historical personage but about a man who in spite of miserable origins strives for love and understanding, only to fail to prevent himself from sabotaging his own efforts.

The very choice of a journal as the method with which Gaveston delivers his story is emblematic of this protagonist. Through this technique an author reveals as much about the character's awareness of and understanding of events as telling the story of the events themselves. Gaveston is therefore just one more person interpreting and misinterpreting himself and his life. As an example, his casual descriptions of being raped at 9 and of his life as a child prostitute interspersed with occasional bitter remembrances offers insight into his own ambivalence about himself and his choices.

Further, I found the use of archaic language enjoyably well done and itself, when compared to his more frank and even coarse observations, illustrative of his contradictions.

In my own work I strive for a certain level of historical accuracy without sacrificing the telling of a darn interesting tale. I don't know if I could pull off the transcendence of genre Purdy has here. It's something to admire and to strive for. All I know is that Confession still haunts me after finishing it. Few books in any genre can accomplish that sort of strength.

As for Floyd's "rock band" analogy... this book to me is like the singer Sting. The Police, which included Sting, was a formidable star in the rock firmanent, but Sting is in a class by himself.

Nan Hawthorne
The Story: A Medieval Tale and How It Came To Be