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Elizabeth Chadwick’s THE TIME OF SINGING

What a wonderful book Elizabeth Chadwick’s THE TIME OF SINGING is. The heartbreaking story of an orphaned girl forced into a being the King’s concubine, she is also forced into making a heartrending choice when she is finally married off.

As wonderful as this novel is for the way in which it brings England of the 1100s to life with its details about the clothes, food and weapons, strong plot-line and beguiling characters, nevertheless there were a couple of choices the author made that didn’t quite work for me.

First of all, the title. THE TIME OF SINGING seems an off-key choice for a truly heart-breaking story. A better title would have been something like A WRENCHING CHOICE or THE PRICE OF BEAUTY or THE TIME OF SORROW.

Secondly, the whole story flows towards and away from the choice that Ida (the heroine) is forced to make. This choice is really the top of the story arc, even though it actually occurs in the middle of the novel rather than towards the end. So I was disappointed that Ms. Chadwick did not make more of it. What actually happens is that a messenger from the King appears to Ida and tells her what her choice is. But we do not have that scene in the novel. Instead, we see its aftermath. True, Ida is sobbing. True, she has collapsed onto the floor. But how much more powerful it would have been to see that sanctimonious bishop come into the room and tell her—. (Which I’m not going to tell you so as not to spoil the story.) Four stars.

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