Thursday 8 October 2015

Not For Crown or Sceptre

We restocked our supplies of Deborah Alcock books over the summer and have just received this really enthusiastic review from a customer of  Not for Crown or Sceptre - A Story of Sweden in the 16th Century...

Despite the incredulity expressed by some about what interest 16th Century Swedish history could hold, I took this 'new in' Deborah Alcock's 'Not for Crown or Sceptre' on holiday with eager anticipation. Already a firm Alcock fan, I expected this little known part of history to reveal some nuggets! And I was not disappointed! Alcock's usual fine literary style is on display, weaving a page-turning masterpiece around the ''scanty historical notices that have come down to us of the hero Gustaf Ericson Vasa''.
The story begins with King Gustaf Vasa, rousing the Dalesfolk of Sweden to fight for freedom from the tyranny of the Danes, and embracing the creed of the Reformation. Within a chapter Gustaf Vasa's glorious 37 year reign has ended in his death, leaving the crown to the murkier and deceitful characters of his family. Gustaf's brother John deposes Gustaf's eldest son Eric on account of his insanity, and dismisses Eric's young son into a planned but failed obscurity.The child is also named Gustaf and the hardships and struggles of his youth in exile, and ultimately his return to Sweden, form the historical backbone of this book.
King John immediately introduces subtle changes, firstly in his 'Red Book', the contents of which departed from the reformation with the suggestion of prayer for the dead, and encouragement to pray to the saints and virgin Mary. When this new liturgy begins to be insisted upon, divisions appear in the churches of Sweden - and in the families of Sweden too.The story is set with the two Nilson brothers: one a university professor with his head turned by the ''king's Romanising changes in the liturgy'', and the other a simple and adored Pastor of Orsa who could not endorse ''the changes that touched the fundamental doctrines of our Reformed Protestant Faith''. The difference between a head knowledge of religion and a heart communication is highlighted remarkably in these two brothers. Extensive discourse between them is expertly used by Alcock to demonstrate the political and religious struggles with Rome of the time. The reader is led on an intricate journey of both heart-rending and heart-warming proportions as we follow the lives of these two brothers and how they intertwine with the child Gustaf.

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