Friday, May 21, 2010

Book Review: The Brothers of Gwynedd (Sunrise in the West, Book #1) by Edith Pargeter

The Brothers of Gwynedd by Edith Pargeter
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark
Publish Date: May 1, 2010
Paperback, 800 pages

This review is for Book #1: Sunrise in the West (this volume has all four stories, but it will be reviewed in parts during the Sourcebooks Summer Book Club)

My Review:
I must admit that this is different from any other historical fiction book I have read.  I think I tend to read ones that are lighter reading and this is just a little bit weightier.  I think that comes from the story itself and also from the historical language used.  I actually had to think about what I was reading.  And while I haven't quite finished the first story (due to having to wade through it, I will definitely leave myself more time next month to read the second installment), I am enjoying this book.  It is not a light read by far, but it is enjoyable once you settle in and start reading and getting use to the language.

Now those of you who read more historical fiction than I do, this probably will be no problem for you - you may be used to it.  I admit it, I actually read a lot of fluff, and that is what I like - pure escapism that I don't have to think about.  However, The Brothers of Gwynedd definitely has a place and I honestly wish I had a book club I could suggest to read it to and I could participate in.  There is lots to discuss.

The first story is only a little over 180 pages, but it takes awhile.  I will finish reading it to gear up for story #2 next month, but also because I want to finish it.  I can see it is a great story and I do love to read a good story.

This book has been touring the blogs this week so check out some others and see what they thought.  We are also having a chat that is hosted by Amy of Passages of the Past on Monday, May 24 from 7:00pm-9:00pm EST, so check out Amy's blog for more details on that.

And check back here next month for my thoughts on the second book in the series, The Dragon at Noonday.
About the Book:
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.

About the Author (from
Novelist. Born September 1913 at Horsehay, Shropshire. Her father was a clerk at a local ironworks. Edith attended Dawley Church of England School and the Coalbrookdale High School for Girls. Through her mother, she grew to love the history and countryside of Shropshire, her home for all of her life.

Before World War II she worked as a chemist's assistant at Dawley. During this time she started writing seriously for publication while gathering useful information on medicines that she would draw upon later when tackling crime stories. Her first published novel was Hortensius, friend of Nero (1936), a rather dry tale of martyrdom that was not a great success but she persevered and The city lies foursquare (1939) was much more warmly received.

During the war she worked in an administrative role with the Women's Royal Navy Service in Liverpool, a relatively brief period away from Shropshire, and for her devotion to duty she received the British Empire Medal. Many more novels appeared at this time, including Ordinary people (1941) and She goes to war (1942), the latter based on her own wartime experiences. The eighth champion of Christendom appeared in 1945 and from now on she was able to devote all her time to writing. She was particularly proud of her Heaven tree trilogy, which appeared between 1961 and 1963, which had as a backdrop the English Welsh borderlands in the twelfth century.

It was not until 1951 that she tackled a mystery story with Fallen into the pit, the first appearance of Sergeant George Felse as the investigating police officer. Her other great character, and the one for which the author will continue to be known the world over, Brother Cadfael, was to follow many years later. The first appearance of this monk at Shrewsbury Abbey was in A morbid taste for bones (1977) and he mixed his herbs and unravelled mysteries in this atmospheric setting for a further nineteen novels. This kept the author very busy for the remaining 18 years of her life, to the virtual exclusion of all other work.

The name "Ellis Peters" was adopted by Edith Pargeter to clearly mark a division between her mystery stories and her other work. Her brother was Ellis and Petra was a friend from Czechoslovakia. A frequent visitor to the country, Edith Pargeter had begun her association and deep interest in their culture after meeting Czechoslovakian soldiers during the war. This was to lead to her learning the language translating several books into English.

She won awards for her writing from both the British Crime Writers Association and the Mystery Writers of America. She was also awarded an OBE (Order of the British Empire), an honorary Masters Degree from Birmingham University and the Gold Medal of the Czechoslovak Society for Foreign Relations. There is a memorial to her in Shrewsbury Abbey.

After her death in October 1995, The Times published a full obituary that declared that here was "a deeply sensitive and perceptive intensely private and modest person " whose writing was "direct, even a little stilted, matching a self-contained personality".

FTC Information: I received this book from Danielle Jackson at Sourcebooks for review and participation in their summer book club.  I have Amazon links on my review pages but I do not make any money from these because of NC laws.  I put them solely for people to check out the books on a retail site.