The Needle of Avocation
Hilda is the second sister, the plain one, the overlooked, the put upon. She is also the finest needlewoman in Northumbria, though she distrusts anyone who tells her so. Her mother, Edith, was born a slave and seduced and married a thegn’s son, a fact which embarrasses Hilda greatly. Edith has tricked the local ealdorman into betrothing his son to Hilda, an arrangement unwelcome to everyone but Edith, and particularly to Hilda who would rather retire to a nunnery and spend her life in embroidery. When Edith reveals a mercenary motive for the marriage — she wants to use Hilda’s morning gift, the property given to a bride for her maintenance, to ransom her enslaved kin — Hilda rebels, feeling she herself is being sold for money, and decides to refuse the marriage. But she is also discovering a secret that has hung over her family since her beautiful older sister was kidnapped by Vikings three years ago. The fearsomely forthright Hilda must then face a choice between living a lie and letting her father suffer a traitor’s death. The only possible way out of the dilemma is to solve the riddle of the shy young man she is supposed to marry. But neither of them seem to be able to say two words to the other.
About The Author
G. M. Baker is trying to revive the serious popular novel, the kind of story that finds the truth of the human condition in action, adventure, romance, and even magic. He writes the newsletters, Stories All the Way Down, Ordinary Eccentricity, and Why I Am Still Catholic, and is the author of the historical novels The Wistful and the Good, St. Agnes and the Selkie, and the fairy-tale fantasy Lady Isabel and the Elf Knight.
The great Viking raid on the monastery of Lindisfarne in 793 was the 9-11 of the Anglo-Saxon age. For Elswyth and her sisters in the nearly coastal village of Twyford, it shattered their lives in ways that none of them could have foreseen.
The great Viking raid on Lindisfarne in 793 disrupted the lives and hopes of many people, both English and Norse. Cuthbert’s people traces its impact on the lives of one thegn’s family in the small coastal village of Twyford, a day’s ride south of Lindisfarne. Edith was born a slave but seduced and married a thegn’s son and became lady of the manor. Her ambitions for her daughters go even higher and Elswyth, her eldest, is engaged to the son of an ealdorman and to host kings at her table. But Elswyth, who attracts affection from all who meet her, has a wistful heart, a love of the sea, and a dream of travelling to Spain.
Hilda, the next eldest, is quickly becoming the finest needlewoman in Northumbria. Hilda asks nothing of life but to be left alone with her needle. But when Elswyth’s wistful heart leads her astray, Edith transfers all of her ambitions and her plans to her second daughter.
Meanwhile, Elswyth receives all her wistful heart wished for, but in a way that leads to the bitterest regret. The three women will find themselves tangled in the affairs of kings, abbesses, and Vikings, but Edith’s daughters, each in the own way, will find a way to hold their own.