DNF Review: Godiva by Nicole Galland

Wednesday, June 19, 2013
Title: Godiva
Author: Nicole Galland
Genre: historical fiction, retellings
Series: N/A
Pages: 336
Published: expected July 2 2013
Source: publishers via edelweiss
Rating: N/A

Everyone knows the legend of Lady Godiva-the woman who (in)famously rode naked on horseback through Coventry to relieve her people from unfair taxation. But why would a lady of the court take it all off and risk everything, including husband, home, and well-being?

In this richly imagined retelling of an oft-told ancient tale, Nicole Galland gives us Lady Godiva in all her, um, glory, as she and her best friend (the Abbess Egdiva) and husband (Leofric, Earl of Mercia) embark on an adventure filled with courtly intrigue, deceit, back-stabbing, and romance.

I chose to DNF at 23% after the following infuriating quotes pushed me over the "to finish or not to finish" edge:

"It is every man's nature to take advantage of a woman's frailty. But most of us are able to resist the impulse when required."


"Barren women have no [sexual] appetites."

To those I say:

I utterly reject that all women are inherently frail and up for ravishment, as well as that "all men are just animals who have no brains aside from SEX. How flattering." (That quote is from the lovely Renae because I am too frustrated to formulate real thoughts.) Am I supposed to like these characters? Root for them? Because any chance that Sweyn would remain anything but a source of aggravating ended as soon as those quotes came into the story.

Also: the idea that women unable to bear children are free from sexual urges? NO. Sexuality has nothing to do with the ability to bear children. None. Whatsoever.

A valid point may be made that the author may be trying to convey typical thoughts from the first millennium (the novel is set in 1040's England), but to my mind there are better ways to do such a thing without being anachronistic. Godiva herself could have made more of an effort to refute both claims, but abandons the effort to focus instead on a pseudo-seduction of the man who uttered both.

Godiva does focus on some very fascinating and forgotten characters in English history (King Edward the Confessor, Godwin, Earl of Wessex), but they alone are not enough to convince me to go on. I have Google for that. I've read Galland before, but this particular story was a wash for me. I wasn't a huge fan of The Fool's Tale, but it didn't irritate me to the point of not finishing as this one did.

Besides the quotes, I had a few issues that rapidly became more and more problematic as the novel went on. Godiva herself tried to be an empowered woman who uses her sexuality to further her husband's and friend's goals, but it came off as uncomfortable and far too obvious a ploy. There is no subtlety to be found in her machinations around the court's noblemen.  Her friend from childhood with royal ties and a bleeding heart for the poor managed to be too sanctimonious, even for an Abbess. Godiva's husband's approval of Godiva's use of flirtation and manipulation didn't ring true for the attitude of a powerful English nobleman.

No rating because I didn't make to 50% (where I usually feel a rating is warranted even for a DNF). This was just not for me. 


  1. WOW. Even the book description sounds labored. Those quotes are horrible, especially if they're from the female character's perspective!

    1. Well, the quotes aren't from the female character. But they are said to her and she does very little to refute what the other, male character says.

  2. Annnnnnnd, nope. This looks interesting because Godiva is a figure is definitely one I'd like to read about but...nope. That whole "men are lesser creatures who can't help their raping tendencies" bullshit is beyond aggravating.

    1. I'd never before read a book with her as the central character - it's honestly what drew me to this in the first place.

      And as much as I hate the sexism leveled at women throughout history, it's just as bad when things like this are aimed at the male gender. Aggravating is the perfect word for it.

  3. This sounds like nine kinds of reheated mess. And that's a shame because Godiva is definitely an interesting woman to delve into if you can.

  4. Too bad this wasn't better... I had my eye on this one for a while. That older mentality can be so hard to stomach, despite how accurate it may be. There are better ways of conveying it, you're right, plus there are much better things to focus the story on. Great review, Jessie. :)

  5. I did finish this...I wish I hadn't. Ugh.


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