Dunstan by Conn Iggulden

‘What is a first line, but a door flung open by an unseen hand?’

England in 937 CE is a divided nation.  Several minor kings and Viking lords rule, each looking to expand his own power and territory. Æthelstan, the king of Wessex and grandson of Alfred the Great, is looking to the north.  Can one man unite the country?

And Dunstan, a fatherless child raised by monks, will play a part.

‘I was just an empty sheet, waiting to be bitten deep.’

Who is Dunstan?  If, like me, you know little about Dunstan here are a few details of his life.  Dunstan lived between C909 and 988 CE.  He was an Abbot of Glastonbury Abbey, a Bishop of Worcester, a Bishop of London and later Archbishop of Canterbury.  Dunstan restored monastic life to England. He was canonised as a saint.  As a monk, he worked as a silversmith and in the scriptorium.  Dunstan was the patron saint of blacksmiths and was involved in designing Glastonbury Cathedral and raising the money to build it.   Dunstan also, and importantly for this novel, served several English kings as a minister of state.

In this novel, Mr Iggulden fleshes out what is known about Dunstan to create a plausible (if not always particularly likeable) three-dimensional character.  He is portrayed as a contradictory man, as both murderer and priest, as well as being a liar and a visionary: a man who changed England.

I didn’t like Dunstan as portrayed by Mr Iggulden, but I enjoyed reading this novel.  I’d recommend this to anyone who is interested in reading about 10th century England, in trying to follow the various intrigues as men jostled for power.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith

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