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The Wars of the Roses turned England upside down. Between 1455 and 1485 four kings, including Richard III, lost their thrones, more than forty noblemen lost their lives on the battlefield or their heads on the block, and thousands of the men who followed them met violent deaths. As they made their way in a disintegrating world, the Paston family in Norfolk family were writing letters – about politics, about business, about shopping, about love and about each other, including the first valentine.
Using these letters – the oldest surviving family correspondence in English – Helen Castor traces the extraordinary history of the Paston family across three generations. Blood & Roses tells the dramatic, moving and intensely human story of how one family survived one of the most tempestuous periods in English history.
Longlisted for the Samuel Johnson Prize in 2005 and winner of the English Association’s Beatrice White Prize in 2006.
'Sharply written, impeccably documented, structured with the trip and pace of a good thriller.'
'Castor cleverly weaves explanation of contemporary social structure, legal procedure, marital customs and other aspects of fifteenth-century life.'
'Her great skill is to show how the Pastons' fortunes were tipped this way and that by the balance of forces in the great world of the court and feuding nobility.'
'Castor's artful writing means that the Pastons' opinions, the squabbles, trials and tribulations emerge from this delightful text to bring the family to life. It's a human, compelling story of a family surviving internal and external pressures and it makes 500 years seem not so very long ago.'
Gripping as any historical novel, it's packed with contemporary resonance.
'Helen Castor's mastery of the voluminous Paston archive and extensive knowledge of the wider social and political milieu in which the family operated allow her to reconstruct the Pastons' history as a chronological narrative ... Blood & Roses is a well-written and engaging book, which skilfully integrates Castor's earlier anatomical study of fifteenth-century East Anglian political society into a lively narrative charting the ebb and flow of the Pastons' fortunes. However, ultimately, it is not the story of the Pastons' struggle to establish decisively their landed status that makes Castor's study to extremely satisfying to read. Instead, the pleasure is to be found in Castor's exposition of the minutiae of the family's domestic concerns and familial relationships.'
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