Tim's Reviews > Boudicca

Boudicca by Jean-Laurent Del Socorro
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really liked it
bookshelves: fantasy, historical-fiction, français, own, signed-dedicated, reviewed

After the wonderful Royaume de vent et de colères (you can read my review here), the French author Jean-Laurent Del Soccorro returns with a new novel: Boudicca, queen of the Iceni. Again set in Europe's history, this time focusing on Great Britain at the time of the Celts and the invasion of the Romans.

Contrary to his previous books, there is now a shortlist of consulted works and websites. My knowledge of the Celts is limited so far. I've only read The World of the Celts by Simon James (you can read my review here), in which Boudicca is briefly mentioned. I still have another reference work to read: The Ancient Celts by Barry W. Cunliffe. Here, as I scanned the pages, Boudicca is mentioned in parts, in several chapters. Luckily, for quick searching, there's also The Element Encyclopedia of the Celts by Rodney Castleden.

Like in the other book, this one is divided into three parts, between a prologue (The Two Andastras, 28 A.D.) and an epilogue (Boudicca, 28-61 A.D.):

1) Daughter of Antedios: 28-43 A.D.
Here we meet the young Boudicca, whose birth required a serious sacrifice: that of her mother, whom she has never known. Her father, King Antedios, was more a warrior and king than a father. This shows in her upbringing, as she's (indirectly) blamed for the death of her mother. But she quickly learns to stand her ground, even at the age of 10-12 years. One can only feel for her, since she never really knew motherly love. Antedios fought a heavy battle with Cunobelin, king of the Catuvellauni tribe, who sought to expand his territory and power. When he died, he was succeeded by his sons Caratacus and Togodumnus, who would later help Boudicca in her battle against the Romans. Boudicca was learned how to use words to present, defend and further your cause, by the tribe's druide, Prydain, whose knowledge and guidance she often used.

2) Pratsugatus's spouse: 44-59 A.D.
After her father's death, Boudicca marries the new king of the Iceni, Pratsugatus. With him she has 2 daughters, here named Defixia and Vindoria. But as Boudicca was brought up in a strict manner, she also brings up her daughters that way and is not afraid to hit them when they're not listening to her "orders", as she trains her eldest daughter to fight with the lance. Of course, her daughters also don't have a warm upbringing, especially not when Boudicca leaves them to go fight the Romans for a period of three years. Pratsugatus prefers the peaceful approach, though he doesn't dare go against Boudicca's fiery determination.

She has her mind set on fighting and ousting the Romans, who have invaded Britain, but also have put shackles on the people. Roman law, taxes, etc. were installed, leading to less freedom and more poverty and famine among the Celts. Boudicca was adamant about freedom, so she would continue her battle until her (and other) people would be really free again.

Of course, the Iceni, the Regnenses, and the Brigantes had treaty arrangements with the Romans, so they were a little, if not very, reluctant to attack their partners. But as push came to shove, eventually more were won for the cause of regaining one's own freedom. Of course, the first battles were not successful, with many losses on both sides. But the determination only grew.

3) Queen of the Iceni: 60-61 A.D.
In this part, Boudicca rallies her allies to finally, once and for all, kick the Romans out and reclaim their (the Celts') freedom. Prior to that, Boudicca and Caratacus had been betrayed by her friend, Queen Cartimandua of the Brigantes, who has strong ties with the Romans and only wanted to keep up her rich life. When tax was to be collected, Boudicca went to show the Roman procurator, Decanius Catus, that she had paid her share, that a certain part of the land was hers, not Roman. A document, signed by the previous procurator, and her late husband, Pratsugatus, indicated that only a part of the possessions and land were transferred to Emperor Nero. But as it happens: new leaders, new rules, and Roman law didn't allow for women to inherit anything. Catus could not stand being questioned/refuted in the presence of his own people, so he decided to learn Boudicca a lesson. And since the Roman soldier knew no discipline under such circumstances, she was flogged, her daughters (11 and 12 years old) were raped. That only enraged the Iceni and Trivantes tribes even more. They asked for help from the gods to put an end to the Roman occupation and ridiculing of the proud Celts.

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There's a novella at the end: D'ailleurs et d'ici. It's not related, or perhaps in principle, to Boudicca's story. It's about the Boston Tea Party of 16/12/1773 (see on Wikipedia). Not a bad story at all, albeit a bit short, perhaps a little (!) too short to instantly "get" it. But maybe it's a sort of foretaste of a forthcoming, third novel?

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Boudicca, the book, is about the Queen of Britain's battle for freedom, the battle to reclaim what was theirs, the land of the Celts, who were a fierce and proud people. Jean-Laurent Del Socorro offered an, all in all, beautiful account of what happened so long ago, tried to show what the Celts went through under the occupation of the Romans, even if not all the Romans brought with them (agricultural influences, ...) was bad, of course. Also, there were trade agreements. It's only when power corrupts, that matters get out of hand.

Of course, cultural elements were also mentioned, like the blue paint they used when going into battle, asking the gods (Andastra, Cernunnos, and others) for guidance, the giant Gogmagog as guardian, the sex aspect (man-man, woman-woman, man-woman; apparently they were, to a certain extent, open-minded back then), ...

Although it's not, I guess, his style, I do think some gaps could have been filled. You can clearly see that the story is - what's the term here? - episodic. A bit more filling would have been nice. I understand, however, that it's not easy when there's not much historical information on your "subject" and if you have a different approach to writing a story, to adding scenes you made up.

But considering such details, I can really recommend Boudicca (this book ;-)) to any (French-speaking) historical fiction fan.

For those interested, there's a nice interview with the author on ActuSF.com.

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p.s.: Two little points of critique I do want to add:
1) Il y a davantage davantage que plus et encore. Or, in English: the number of times the word 'davantage', instead of an alternative, is used... sometimes a little too often. In my humble opinion.
2) Commas. Maybe it's the grammar nazi in me, but I saw several phrases where commas could, but also should (!) have been used, if one follows the grammar rules.
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Reading Progress

March 8, 2017 – Shelved
March 8, 2017 – Shelved as: wishlist
March 8, 2017 – Shelved as: fantasy
March 8, 2017 – Shelved as: historical-fiction
March 8, 2017 – Shelved as: français
March 10, 2017 – Shelved as: to-read
March 10, 2017 – Shelved as: own
March 11, 2017 – Shelved as: signed-dedicated
April 2, 2017 – Started Reading
April 4, 2017 –
page 77
27.5%
April 4, 2017 –
page 137
48.93%
April 5, 2017 –
page 203
72.5%
April 6, 2017 – Finished Reading
April 7, 2017 – Shelved as: reviewed

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