A Review of Joanne Larner’s “Richard Liveth Yet”
There is nothing like RSI for limiting the hours spent at a laptop, so being forced by circumstance to leave my writing alone for a while, I cast around for something to read. No, not any non-fiction this time, but a real escape into someone else’s fiction. And so I settled down with Joanne Larner’s time-travel novel, “Richard Liveth Yet”.
I knew from the outset that it wasn’t a book I could have written. The thought of explaining how modern day life, gadgets, pastimes and so on might appear to someone from the 15th century was just too much. But Joanne pulls it off with immense dash and believability . . . and with humour. It is a heady mix that kept me glued to the pages for a whole day, cover to cover.
Just how might Richard III react to finding himself in present-day England? Well, it would be only too easy to make him irritating, not understand anything and being constantly taken aback by the latest electronic whatnot. That is not how he is at all. We all know he was a quick-witted, intelligent, masterful man, and so he is. Nothing in Rose’s (the leading character of the 21st century) world fazes him completely. He’s ready for anything . . . except perhaps the Trick or Treat children who knock at Rose’s door on Halloween, and he finds himself confronted by mini-witches! His superstitious mediaeval self surges to the fore! Poor Richard, in his time witches are a great dread, and here is Rose, holding out a bowl of sweets to them. Our hero is not amused.
When it comes to bringing his mediaeval prowess to the present day, however, he is in his element. Now Rose can really appreciate the phrase ‘knight in shining armour’. His riding skills are matchless, he takes part in re-enactments and can out-joust them all. He even takes part in the re-enactment of Bosworth—and suffers the insult of playing Henry Tudor! His thoughts about that can be imagined. However, his knightly skills are in evidence in other ways too, and it isn’t very long before poor Rose is all at sixes and sevens about him. How could she not be, sitting with him outside a pub, while he enjoys a pint and packet of crisps, crunching away while telling her exactly what happened at Northampton and Stony Stratford in 1483. It is touches like this that make him—and the book—so endearing.
I will not say more to spoil the experience of this book for prospective readers . . . except to grin at the thought—my own, I hasten to say, because the book does not end as you would expect it to—of all those wondrously qualified people at Leicester University discovering that Richard’s remains sported a handsome 21st century tooth implant! Wonderful.
Thank you, Joanne, for a terrific excursion into Richard’s time travel adventures, and the ending is superb. “Richard Liveth Yet” is thoroughly recommended. Anyone who reads it will not be disappointed. If I could give it six stars, I would, but as only five are the norm, I must be content with that.
Sandra Heath Wilson
15th May 2015