In the Days of Alfred the Great, by Eva March Tappan, tells the story of the great King Alfred. It is published by Yesterday's Classics and is an unabridged republication of the work that was originally published in 1900. The book consists of sixteen chapters and 230 pages.
When the story begins, Alfred is a boy of not quite five years old. The author introduces him in the setting of his home and family. This immediately captured my interest, since it is not common to see great heroes in such an environment. Excitement quickly builds as the young boy is sent to Rome. From there, much turmoil ensues. The young Alfred loses family members, returns to England, and witnesses great destruction as the Danes ravage the land. The final chapters tell of Alfred's struggle to defeat the Danes and restore peace and safety to the land.
Even though Alfred inherited the land at the tender age of 22, more than half of this book is devoted to his life before becoming king. In my opinion, this is what makes it so fascinating. The reader is able to see his character develop and mature over time as well as observe the relationships that greatly influenced him. We see his great struggles and disappointments and also his triumphs. Best of all, we see the effort he was willing to exert to do what was right.
I thoroughly enjoyed Tappan's writing style. Her pleasure in telling the tale is obvious, as is her respect for this great man. I appreciate her honesty in the preface, in which she states, "However faulty it [this book] may be, it is, at least, the result of a thoughtful study of his character, and an earnest effort to be as accurate as the scantiness of material and the thousand years' interval would permit."
There is a good deal of dialog throughout the book and it really brings the characters to life. How accurate it is, I cannot tell, but it is certainly believable and understandable (as well as entertaining).
Colorful descriptions of battles are a mainstay. Because of this, I feel the recommended age of 11 and up is accurate. I'm sure children of this age, especially boys, would find it most exciting. It would also be a very good read-aloud, although I would urge parents to read the book themselves before sharing it with younger children. I'm certain my seven-year-old daughter would enjoy most of the book; however, a few of the battle scenes are a little too descriptive for her age.
It must be noted that some legend is undoubtedly included. Visions from the saints, a magic flag, and seeing the future are all part of this tale. But that is what makes up the story of Alfred the Great, and I suppose it wouldn't be the same without these elements.
My favorite aspect of the book is its emphasis on relationship. Most of Alfred's family members are integral to the story, and much of the text is devoted to their conversation and interaction. The reader is given the opportunity to observe this family behind the scenes and see how Alfred fits in.
This book is well written and very interesting. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and could not help developing respect for this man, Alfred the Great. I look forward to sharing it with my children and hope to read some of Eva March Tappan's other works. In
the Days of Alfred the Great would be a great addition to any homeschool program and a beneficial read for those interested in history and good character.