My Husband, by Anne Elliott, has a different format from most historical novels.
Rather than being full of action and dialog, the entire book is the reflection of a woman praying at a church where her late husband is buried, standing up.
At first, this put me off and I didn’t know if I’d be able to finish the book. “Too much of an “information dump” at the start. But even though the entire book is like that, finish it I did.
My Husband, the Extraordinary History of Nicholas Brome, tells the story of Lettice Catesby’s marriage to Nicholas Brome: her first, his third, in the early days of the reign of King Henry VIII. The entire novel is about Brome’s “unforgivable” sin — the one that will damn him to hell — but we don’t learn what this sin is until the end of the book.
Instead, we learn that Lettice weds Nicholas knowing he was a two-time murderer. Yet he received forgiveness for his crimes not only from the old king, but also from the pope. On his deathbed, he tells Lettice he wants to be buried standing up as an act of atonement. But Lettice cannot fathom why he believes he has committed an unpardonable sin.
Later, she sees the why.
While the book lags from time to time because of too much description and not enough dialogue, it moves along quickly enough to keep an intent reader engaged. We learn the details of Nicholas’s first two marriages, which are interesting. Leticia knows the women involved from local gossip, and does not marry her husband until she is 35 years old. Nicholas is many years her senior, about 60 at the time of the wedding.
Elliott uses finesse is detailing Lettice’s love for her husband, describing his gentle manner and light touch, despite having borne great sorrow. We also learn of Lettice’s great love for his children and her yearning for some of her own.
The book is based on a real couple in 16th century Britain.
My Husband ends with a morality question we are still struggling with today. I won’t give away what it is. Read the book and find out.