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Hild (Hild #1)

3.79 of 5 stars 3.79  ·  rating details  ·  4,139 ratings  ·  1,001 reviews
A brilliant, lush, sweeping historical novel about the rise of the most powerful woman of the Middle Ages: Hild.

Hild is born into a world in transition. In seventh-century Britain, small kingdoms are merging, usually violently. A new religion is coming ashore; the old gods’ priests are worrying. Edwin of Northumbria plots to become overking of the Angles, ruthlessly using
Hardcover, 560 pages
Published November 12th 2013 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (first published January 1st 2013)
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Community Reviews

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So, I've been struggling with Hild: A Novel--or as I think of it, Hild: Nicola Griffith Did Her Research and She Really, Really Wants You to Know It--for almost a month now. I am only halfway through the thing. I've been thinking the whole time that, gosh, there are probably people who would love this book and devour it and celebrate its own unique intricacies, and how unfortunate it is that I am not even close to being one of those people. I do really love some things about the book--the politi ...more
Patricia Bracewell
Griffith's writing is gorgeous. There is an immediacy and specificity in her descriptions of the 7th century Anglo-Saxon world that completely immerse the reader in that unfamiliar time and place. She uses language like a magic wand, although the world she creates in this novel is anything but romantic -- it is hard and cold and dangerous; life is peripatetic; 'home' is a concept rather than a place; days revolve around the laborious tasks that keep a people alive, and years around the seasons o ...more
I don't know when I last waffled so much considering how to rate and review a novel. I'm opting on the high side because Nicola Griffith writes with such confidence and because I believe that ardent fans of speculative historical fiction have every reason to be crazy in love with this book.

This reader got bogged down in highly-and-repetitively-detailed world building and the army of characters with impossible names and a plot that lurched from battle to battle for reasons that I simply gave up

I have spent the last four days in seventh century Britain so fully engrossed in its brutal and beautiful world that sitting down at my computer feels like I have come back to the future.

Saint Hilda of Whitby, daughter of a Northumbrian prince, grew up to become an Abbess, a trainer of bishops for the growing Christian church in Britain, and a consultant to kings and princes, but except for a brief mention in The Ecclesiastical History of the English People by Bede, aka the Father of English His
Robin Sloan
It's been a long time since I was so happy reading a book this fat, and even longer since I was so sad to see it end. But! -- it took a gloriously long time to get there. HILD is a thick one. You get to the point where you're swimming in the world of the book, just totally entranced, drunk on story and language, and you think: given everything that's happened so far -- whole lives unfurled -- this must be coming to a close. But no: feel the pages beneath your fingers. You're not even halfway thr ...more
I was underwhelmed by this. I was reading an ARC so I didn't have the author's note or maps, so perhaps I was at a disadvantage but I don't know why Griffths' novel stopped before Hilda's transformation to the abbess of one of the most notable monastic houses of the early medieval period. The novel felt very hodgepodged to me - lots of research,a modern sensibility and an ending that I didn't believe.

It's also a complex time of warring factions, tribes, and religious tensions and there is simpl
Before she was even born, Hild's mother prophesied that she would be "the light of the world." Hild turned out not to be the boy her parents expected, but her mother trains her to become an important figure nevertheless. As a child, Hild's sharp mind merits her a reputation as a seer and inclusion in her uncle, King Edwin's, household. Through observation, curiosity, and never-ceasing reflection, Hild's mind continues to expand amidst never ending political (and physical) battles.

Every moment f
"The past isn't dead. It isn't even past." (Faulkner)

"The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there." (L.P.Hartley)

These two quotes, pulling against each other, capture something immensely important between them. I'm always fascinated in historical fiction to see how authors deal with this. How do they give a sense that they're not writing about "us in fancy dress, with our mouths full of... prithees and zounds," (as J.L. Carr puts it), but still do justice to the fact that we
Jennifer (aka EM)
Dec 20, 2014 Jennifer (aka EM) rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone who loves Mantel's Wolf Hall/BUTB; middle-agers
Recommended to Jennifer (aka EM) by: Simon
Historical fiction (but is it?) about a lonely, violent, spookily-intuitive, pagan (tho’ converted), lesbian (Griffith says she’s actually bi) saint-to-be and her manipulative, astonishing mother, written as though it was speculative fiction.

If you think there’s a lot to unpack in that first sentence, you ain’t read Hild yet.

Politics, war, and the very early Christian conversion attempts by Roman priests in 7th Century Britain.

Women. Spinning, weaving, plotting, planning, making the world go '
"Hild is born into a world in transition. In seventh-century Britain, small kingdoms are merging, usually violently. A new religion is coming ashore; the old gods’ priests are worrying. Edwin of Northumbria plots to become overking of the Angles, ruthlessly using every tool at his disposal: blood, bribery, belief."

If you are interested in historical fiction at all, read this book.

It is gorgeously written, set in Medieval England, covering the "history" of a powerful woman, St. Hilda of Whitby. T
Jul 24, 2013 Melody rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Kate Sutherland
Hild is a book I've been looking forward to with unalloyed anticipation, ever since Griffith mentioned it on her blog a long time ago. I was thrilled to get an early NetGalley copy to read. And then, for awhile, I was floundering. It's a huge story, populated with a great many characters, many of whom have similar names. Or if not similar, equally unfamiliar to the modern ear. There were a lot of words to puzzle out contextual meanings of (as the glossary in the e-Galley was too complicated to k ...more
Tanja Berg
Given up at page 150. I do not care what happens to any of the characters, there is almost no forward tension and the historical details in themselves are not enough. I strongly suspect that if I bothered to struggle through the rest, I would hate it even though I desperately want to like it. So I won't. Goodbye and good luck Hild. I hope you were more interesting in real life.
Because I abandoned ship at page 100, I hesitate to call this a 'review.' Nicole Griffith obviously devoted huge amounts of meticulous research to the creation of Hild, but it was too much of the wrong stuff. First of all, it's a tough read when you're provided with a glossary and short course on Old English/Old Irish but still find yourself plodding along, skipping between the paragraph you're on and the glossary and the language tutorial! Second, the number of characters and their relationship ...more
This book is driving me nuts, because parts of it are so wonderful and parts are utterly infuriating.

My objections are similar to the ones appearing in other reviews. Yes, it is meticulously researched, and paints a very real-seeming picture of daily life for women in the time period. I often felt very immersed in the world of the book. Yes, Hild the character is awesome and brilliant and genre-convention-breaking.

But this book meanders, and it does a very poor job of explaining just what the he
This is a beautiful, meandering story of the imagined childhood of Saint Hild of Whitby.

Set in a time when Christianity was replacing the old Pagan religions with the help of the political machinations of the British royalty, the pace of the story lets you get immersed in the life and times of the powerful of 8th century Britain.

I loved this story. The characters were fascinating, even those with small parts to play are not left to be cardboard cutouts but are given life and personality. The s
Mauoijenn ~ *Mouthy Jenn* ~
I'm gonna be honest... I normally don't read to many of these books that fit into the historical fiction genre. Its just usually not my thing unless something grabs my attention in the story line. What grabbed me with this one, you ask? THE COVER!!

I mean look at it. Its gorgeous. A nice teal/turquoise blue and that picture of Hild on the front, very nice indeed. Now this is a nice fat chunky book, but I gotta say I was very impressed. It kind of took me a chapter or two to get into the story but


Ms Griffith novel, Hild , is classified in the genre of historical novels. And rightly so since it tells a story of a heroine, who lived, breathed and walked the earth. Whose actions had a tremendous influence on shaping the future of the land she dwelt in as well as the fate of those she lived among. However, to leave this work just in the hands of history buffs would be such a waste! This
In a land rife with magic and steeped in lore, a young girl must shoulder the responsibility of being the light of the world. Hild is an impressive, sweeping tale of the eponymous girl, the king's seer,who lives in a time of dramatic upheaval in the fabric of ancient Britain, as Christianity seeps into the Anglo-Saxon lands, a trickle that turns into a flood that sweeps her king along. In Christ's world, being a seer is dangerous business, and Hild must walk a a careful path, for a tiny mistake ...more
Cathy Douglas
This turned out to be historical fantasy. Very little is known about Hilda's early life, so Griffith fills in with some highly improbable shit she made up. I kept having to ask myself if I had a problem with this, and myself kept saying no, not really. The everyday-life scenes that go on in the background--butter churning, cloth dying, childbirth--give the book a nice dose of real history. The storyline itself needs a grain of salt, but it works if you think of it as speculative fiction.

Hild's a
Many other reviews of Nicola Griffith’s stunning new novel Hild will be written by people who have a much deeper understanding of its historical period, its main character, and the author’s previous works. Sadly, I am a blank slate when it comes to all three: prior to reading Hild, I had very little knowledge of Seventh Century England or St. Hilda of Whitby, and (to my great shame) Hild is the first novel I’ve read by Griffith.

I’m starting this review with that information because I believe man
This is a magnificent book. I have a habit of sometimes reading to finish a book, rather than reading to experience it. I lived this novel, the grit and the grime as well as the glamour. It is a lush imagining, an act of deft, from-the-ground-up worldbuilding. I love how everyone has things to do, whether they are men, women, nobles, farmhands: there are herbs to collect, sheep to shear, cows to be milked, people to be healed, cloths to be woven. I love that the women have purpose and agency, an ...more
Loki (of Smartassgard)
I will try to organise my thoughts into a coherent whole... I re-read this book, to ensure my thoughts on it.

Some writers are story tellers, and others, are story weavers. The differences are subtle, and I am not articulate enough to explain them all. As I see it, Weavers use their characters and plot like warp and weft fibers, creating a pattern that isn't fully visible until the last fiber. Weavers tend to be very meticulous in their research, which can result in a bit of a dry read, but worth
Darlene Vendegna
I was lucky enough to get an advance look at this book. Full disclosure, I have been a fan of Nicola Griffith for years and have loved all of her novels. This is her first foray into historical fiction and in my opinion she performed admirably. Yes, I wished for a pronounciation guide at times, and ready access to a map, but in spite of that lack in this preview version, I loved every minute of the story. We meet Hild as a little girl and follow her life, from her point of view. I found the atte ...more
Jun 19, 2013 Sally rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: arc, ipad
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Rich Rosell
There's no mistaking Griffith's talent to create elaborate details of seemingly every aspect of life in 7th century Britain, but that doesn't always mean this was a completely satisfying read. Early on this was more of an endurance test for me, though by midpoint I was more comfortable with the Griffith's flow and her mass of minuatie. Her prose is rich and visual, and she tosses out a complex swirl of characters whose alliances/allegiances were often a challenge to keep straight. Sometimes I ha ...more
If you read one book in the historical fiction genre this year, Hild is the one to read. It is epic and the writing is gorgeous - sprawling across seventh century Britain much like my cat sprawls in the window each morning to catch the sun on his belly. It is bursting with story - rich, detailed, fully imagined.

St. Hild of Whitby is known as the founding abbess of the monastery at Whitby and renowned in converting England to Christianity. What is known about her life, particularly the time befor
Fictionalized account of the early life of the seventh-century Anglo-Saxon woman who would later become a pivot point in the conversion to Christianity, and a saint.

I read this directly after Kay's Under Heaven, which was accidentally brilliant. Both are fictionalized historical accounts of great cultural transition, and yeah they're set about half a world and a century apart and their respective projects are different, but sometimes contrasts are the most illuminating.

This was a subtle, very h
4.75. Spectacular and stunning historical fiction about seventh-century Britain. The obvious comparison is to Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel - the story of how someone close to the king goes about influencing events and trying to not fall out of favor, in Wolf Hall Thomas Cromwell, here Saint Hilda, niece of the king. I could go on and on about what I liked about this, what makes it differ and seem more fantastic and magic than Wolf Hall: the whole book is so immersed in the natural world, with the ...more
3.4 stars.

Excellent historical fiction. Case study in turning one paragraph of actual history into two--or three or four--thick volumes of story. Fully realized history and culture. Complex relationships, even if a bit modern. Manages to include eighteenth century entrepreneurship, twentieth century social conscious and twenty-first century sexual mores without bending the frame of history too badly. After all, we know little about eighth century England, so she may as well base her tale on how
By Nicola Griffith
5 stars

Upon commencing to read Hild by Nicola Griffith the reader feels immersed in the 7th century. Griffith mastered the language and feel of the time and I suppose it is little wonder as she has been planning this book for 20 years. Still, the reader finds herself speaking a strange language and looking about at an England that is filled with trees and birds who portend the future. The early medieval time is a dangerous era of plotting and wars as well as hope for
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Nicola Griffith has won the Washington State Book Award, the Nebula Award, the James Tiptree, Jr. Memorial Award, the World Fantasy Award, Premio Italia, and six Lambda Literary Awards. She is also the co-editor of the Bending the Landscape series of anthologies. Her newest novel is Hild. She lives in Seattle with her wife, writer Kelley Eskridge.

* Aud Torvingen
More about Nicola Griffith...
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“Dogs own space and cats own time.” 11 likes
“She liked time at the edges of things -- the edge of the crowd, the edge of the pool, the edge of the wood -- where all must pass but none quite belonged.” 7 likes
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