Review: Lady of Hay

Lady of Hay
Lady of Hay by Barbara Erskine

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Interesting story about Matilda de Braose who King John held prisoner for accusing him of killing Prince Arthur of Brittany to eliminate the likely heir and grab the English throne for himself. Matilda and her son were starved to death in an oubliette at Corfe Castle. The manner in which Matilda and her son William met their deaths outraged the English nobility that Magna Carta, which King John was forced to sign in 1215, contains clause 39;

No man shall be taken, imprisoned, outlawed, banished or in any way destroyed, nor will we proceed against or prosecute him, except by the lawful judgement of his peers or by the law of the land

5 years later King John granted Matilda’s daughter a piece of Welsh land to build a monastery in her dead parents and brother’s names. It was one of the last pieces of work done by King John who died 8 days later.

This is a time-slip story with regression of a woman in the mid-1980s (Jo) who is a reincarnation of Matilda de Braose (Lady of Hay). She has a love quadrangle with three men reincarnated from 800 years before – William de Braose (Matilda’s husband), Earl Richard de Clare (her lover) and King John (her killer). The modern characters drink a lot and continually go into hypnosis to re-live their previous lives and play out Matilda’s story. The protagonist Jo consequently is a weak character, always fainting and going into trances, being self-absorbed and needing hysterical attention from everyone. Bizarrely the other characters put up with her high maintenance behaviour and continuously allow her to railroad their lives and plans. It’s not convincing that modern day people would tolerate that from an adult.

The historical part of this book is interesting. The modern part is flimsy and irritating.

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