Above painting: Louis Jean Francois - Mars and Venus an Allegory of Peace


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Monday, May 17, 2010

The Brothers of Gwynedd: A Quartet, by Edith Pargeter -- Book Club Review

I had the immense pleasure of reading Edith Pargeter's historical novel, The Brothers of Geynedd:  A Quartet.  This book of massive proporations (just under 800 pages) has been broken into four smaller parts (a quartet), and for today's review, I'm taking on Story One: Sunrise in the West.

This book was originally published as four separate stories in the 1970's and then compiled together.  Pargeter, who has sadly passed, was a literary phenomenon, and published numerous works.  Her life itself is admirable and fascinating.  To learn more about Pargeter, visit this link:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edith_Pargeter

Back Cover Blurb...

A Burning Desire for One Country, One Love, and One Legacy That Will Last Forever.

Llewelyn, prince of Gwynedd, dreams of a Wales united against the English, but first he must combat enemies nearer home. Llewelyn and his brothers—Owen Goch, Rhodri, and David—vie for power among themselves and with the English king, Henry III. Despite the support of his beloved wife, Eleanor, Llewelyn finds himself trapped in a situation where the only solution could be his very downfall...

Originally published in England as four individual novels, The Brothers of Gwynedd transports you to a world of chivalry, gallant heroes, and imprisoned damsels; to star-crossed lovers and glorious battle scenes; and is Edith Pargeter’s absorbing tale of tragedy, traitors, and triumph of the heart.

Available now from Sourcebooks
ISBN: 9781402237607

Price: $16.99
Publication Date: May 2010

My Review...

What an amazing novel! I embarked on a journey in story one, with the narrator Samson, a man in service to Prince Llewelyn.  Born on the same day, and with Samson's mother tied closely with Llewelyn's mother, Lady Senena, the two share a path and journey that are integrally linked. 

The story is intense.  A bitter battle between family, countries and laws of old. Llewelyn, his brothers, his father, mother, are all fighting for their rightful place on the throne of Wales. Afterall, according to ancient rules that should still apply, even though his father is illegitimate, he is the oldest son.  And bastard or not, according to the laws, he is the rightful heir, making Prince Llewelyn second in line to the thrown after his older brother Owen.  But, his father's brother, David, who is legitimate, took the reign instead, the old king not wanting a bitter dispute, and the country needing strength against the possible threat of England's invasion.

Sunrise in the West, starts out with Samson, our narrator, and Llewelyn as young boys.  And at the age of twelve, Llewelyn has to make a hard decision.  His mother has decided to enlist the aide of the English king to free his father (Lord Griffith) from prison (he's been imprisoned by his brother David, as has Owen).  But Llewelyn doesn't agree to the plot.  And he escapes unknown from her household, to return to his uncle, but one person does know.  And to prove his loyalty to Llewelyn, he promises not to tell that he saw him leave.  Llewelyn makes a promise of his own, he won't tell his uncle what his mother's plans are.

But life in thirteenth century is no cake walk, and at twelve years old, Llewelyn as well as Samson, have had to grow up fast.  Through a number of years and a series of treacherous events, (you'll have to read to find out what!) Samson and Llewelyn find themselves as men, and Prince Llewelyn finds himself as a leader among the Welsh.

The author did an amazing job with her research.  If I didn't know better, I would have thought she lived through the history herself.  No facet of the time period is left unturned.  What I really enjoyed about this story is that you get the perspective of a lower class member of society, and you also see what the life of a royal is like--and not just a royal sitting pretty on the throne, this book is full of action, adventure, fighting, triumph, failure, betrayal, trust.  There are scores of fabulous stories about nobleman, royals, and other wealthy historical figures, but not enough about the peasants and servants.  I was glad to see the aspects of their lives expounded on. 

This book is not a light read, I'll admit, but if you love a good historical, with real life vivid historical characters, action, intrigue and a wonderously painted setting, The Brothers of Gwynedd is a must read.


Visit these other blogs who are also participating in the book club, to read more reviews, and don't forget tonight, there will be a chat on Part One! 
May 17 Reviews

The Burton Review   http://www.theburtonreview.com/
The Bibliophilic Book Blog  http://www.bibliophilicbookblog.com/
Rundpinne http://www.rundpinne.com/
A Reader's Respite http://readersrespite.blogspot.com/
History Undressed http://www.historyundressed.blogspot.com/
Linda Banche Blog http://lindabanche.blogspot.com/
A Hoyden's Look at Literature http://caramellunacy.blogspot.com/
Royal Reviews http://theroyalreviews.blogspot.com/

May 18 Reviews

Between the Pages http://www.betweenthelinesandmore.blogspot.com/
The Broken Teepee http://www.brokenteepee.blogspot.com/
Books and Coffee http://bookswithcoffee.wordpress.com/
Book Girl of Mur-y-Castell http://books-forlife.blogspot.com/
Tanzanite's Shelf and Stuff http://shelfandstuff.blogspot.com/
Passages to the Past http://www.passagestothepast.com/
The Book Faery http://tbfreviews.net/
A Girl Walks Into a Bookstore http://agirlwalksintoabookstore.blogspot.com/
Martha's Bookshelf http://marthasbookshelf.blogspot.com/

May 19 Reviews

Beth Fish http://bfishreads.blogspot.com/
Deb's Book Bag http://debsbookbag.blogspot.com/
Book Tumbling http://booktumbling.com/
A Work in Progress http://danitorres.typepad.com/workinprogress/
Stiletto Storytime http://www.stilettostorytime.wordpress.com/
Queen of Happy Endings http://alainereading.blogspot.com/

May 20 Reviews

The Literate Housewife http://literatehousewife.com/
Reading Adventures http://readingadventures.blogspot.com/
Books Like Breathing http://bibliophile23.wordpress.com/
Kailana's Written World http://myreadingbooks.blogspot.com/
Confessions of a Muse in the Fog http://muse-in-the-fog.blogspot.com/
Wendy's Minding Spot http://mindingspot.blogspot.com/
Mrs. Q Book Addict http://web.me.com/quirion
The Life and Lies of a Flying Inanimate Object http://www.haleymathiot.blogspot.com/
Starting Fresh http://startingfresh-gaby317.blogspot.com/

May 21 Reviews

Loving Heart Mommy http://www.lovingheartmommy.com/
Peeking Between the Pages http://peekingbetweenthepages.blogspot.com/
Celtic Lady's Ramblings http://celticladysreviews.blogspot.com/
Bookfoolery http://bookfoolery.blogspot.com/
One Literature Nut http://mjmbecky.blogspot.com/
The Book Tree http://thebooktree.blogspot.com/
My Reading Room http://myreadingroom-crystal.blogspot.com/

May 23 Reviews

Carla Nayland's Blog http://www.carlanayland.org/index.shtml

May 24th - Chat for Story One: Passages to the Past
Hosted by Amy
7:00pm - 9:00pm EST
Don't forget to check back next month for the book club reviews and chat of Book Two!
Story Two: The Dragon at Noonday
Reviews - June 21-25
Chat - June 28 on The Literate Housewife
Story Three:  The Hounds of Sunset
Reviews - July 19-23
Chat - July 26 on The Burton Review
Story Four: Afterglow and Nightfall
Review - August 23-27
Chat - August 30 on I Read


Blodeuedd said...

Nice review :)
I must write something good tomorrow

Anonymous said...

Great article ! I bet a lot of work went into this post. Although I’m looking forward to getting more information about this topic...

Recycled Cottage & Garden said...

I'm a huge Brother Cadfael fan and read this book a few years back. Totally enjoyed it.

Anonymous said...

I'm so intimidated by the size of this book. I would do better if they had left them in separate volumes. I know it is purely in my head, but I just don't have the time to tackle such a long work. I know it is the same number of pages if I read them in 4 separate books, but it wouldn't be so overwhelming. That said, it sounds like an epic I would like to read.

Marg said...

I am enjoying reading all the different posts about this book. Some love it, some have given up on it, and others are somewhere in the middle!

photo ex machina said...

Like the website! Well done!

Fiona said...

Brothers Gwynned is an interesting story, even if the prose is overblown. However, I question the research when the author makes several references to 13th century crops of corn in Wales. Corn didn't arrive in Europe until it was brought from the Americas centuries later. Oops!

Anonymous said...

Fiona - I'm afraid you're taking too narrow a view (and too modern of one) of the term "corn", which essentially refers to all long-eared grains in British useage. Here's a dictionary definition: "(Chiefly British) Any of various cereal plants or grains, especially the principal crop cultivated in a particular region, such as wheat in England or oats in Scotland." Think about corn dollies, the figures and shapes fashioned in straw that are a part of pagan, pre-Christian tradition throughout the British Isles (as well as most of Northern Europe.) Although they're called "corn" dollies, they are generally made from wheat, oats, rye or barley. Because all these grains were referred to under the more general term "corn". Thus, at the time of the Brothers of Gynnedd story, corn did not refer to the same thing we think of today (which is actually "maize".)