Friday, October 7, 2011

Book Review: The Wedding Shroud by Elisabeth Storrs

In 406 BC, to seal a tenuous truce, the young Roman Caecilia is wedded to Vel Mastarna, an Etruscan nobleman from the city of Veii. The fledgling Republic lies only twelve miles across the Tiber from its neighbour, but the cities are from opposing worlds so different are their customs and beliefs. Leaving behind a righteous society, Caecilia is determined to remain true to Roman virtues while living among the sinful Etruscans. Instead she finds herself tempted by a mystical, hedonistic culture which offers pleasure and independence to women as well as a chance to persuade the Gods to delay her destiny. Yet Mastarna and his people also hold dark secrets and, as war looms, Caecilia discovers that Fate is not so easy to control and that she must finally choose where her allegiance lies. Exploring themes of sexuality, destiny versus self-determination and tolerance versus prejudice, The Wedding Shroud is a novel that vividly captures a historical time and place while accenting the lives of women of the ancient world.

Synopsis courtesy of

My Review

4.5 Stars

Elisabeth Storrs debut novel, The Wedding Shroud, is set primarily in a time and place rarely found in historical fiction - the Etruscan city of Veii during the early 4th century B.C. 

Opening in ancient Rome, the novel follows the life of Caecilia, a young Roman woman whose hand is offered in marriage to an Etruscan nobleman in order to cement a peace treaty between Rome and the neighboring Etruscan civilization.  Forced into a union she doesn't want, Caecilia must not only marry a man she knows little about, but she must also come to terms with living amongst Etruscans, a people whose culture and belief systems are vastly different from those of early Rome.  

The development of Caecilia's character is one of the greatest strengths of this novel.   While Caecilia goes into her marriage with the intention of staying true to Rome, Storrs skillfully illustrates Caecilia's inner struggles as she finds herself caught between two worlds.  In reading the novel, the reader is witness to the evolution of Caecilia as she works to find her place in the world, and it is through these efforts that she comes to better understand herself and those around her.  

Vividly descriptive and rich in historical detail, The Wedding Shroud successfully brings to life not only Caecilia's story, but also the customs, beliefs and political machinations of ancient Etruria and early Rome.   It is evident right from the opening pages that a significant amount of research went into the writing of this novel.   Well-written and engaging, this is novel that fans of historical fiction should find enjoyable.  I look forward to Elisabeth Storrs' next book.

Note: This book comes from my own personal collection.