One of the footnotes in some book commended the great historical detail of Valerie Anand’s Bridges Over Time 6-volume series, so I put the three books they had at the library on hold. I read the second to last one first — and was instantly hooked. When the next two books came, I sucked those down. The library didn’t have the remaining three; I managed to find them all in online used book stores and order them (one from Australia), and I have finally finished the entire series.
They are fabulous.
In the first novel, Ivon de Clairpont is a pre-William the Conquerer Norman knight who is captured in battle and sold into slavery. Each subsequent book tells the story of selected descendents, and the entire series spans 9 centuries–from slavery to serfdom to yeoman farmers to gentry. These are not great literature, but the stories are riveting (most people are completely miserable, which is immensely gratifying in its own way) and the historical detail truly amazing. Anand also links all the stories so that what happens in one appears as history distorted by time in the next; we, as readers, are filled with a knowing glow.
I read these out of order, and enjoyed them immensely. However, if I had my druthers, I would read them in order:
The Proud Villeins (Bridges Over Time, Book I)
The Ruthless Yeomen (Bridges Over Time, Book 2)
Women of Ashdon (Bridges Over Time, Book 3)
The Faithful Lovers (Bridges Over Time, Book 4)
The Cherished Wives (Bridges Over Time/Valerie Anand, Bk 5)
The Dowerless Sisters (Bridges Over Time)