Thursday, June 14, 2012

A Novel of Radnorshire Interest.

Now I'll be honest and admit that I don't read novels.  I might occasionally enjoy a page turner or read a book that gives an insight into a world I want to know more about, but that's it.  This novel, however, concerns two of the more interesting individuals who have lived in what later became Radnorshire, Gwenllian the daughter of Owain Glyndwr and her husband Philip ap Rhys of Cenarth in the parish of St Harmon. The novel, it says, was inspired by poems written by Lewis Glyn Cothi, Llawdden and Ieuan Gyfannedd.  Long-time readers of this blog will realise that this presses a lot of buttons for me, so it's a book that I had to buy.

After a couple of chapters I'm afraid I consigned it to the rather large box entitled books to be read later.  As I said I don't really like novels, I much prefer factual books.  Now obviously it is perfectly proper for an historical novel to make things up.  Not much is known about the lives of Gwenllian and Philip so the author is at liberty to imagine a great deal.  But why change the few facts that are known?  The book features a poet called Iolo, obviously Iolo Goch..  In reality it's doubtful if Iolo even lived to see Glyndwr take up arms.  The novel mentions Lewis Glyn Cothi's marvellous poem requesting a bed and sets it in 1402, Lewis was probably born in the 1420s. I found fact changes like this, and I could go on, annoying.  Obviously most readers wouldn't have the same problem.

I don't feel the book captures the spirit of the time and skimming through the unread chapters I found the plot a bit far-fetched. Gwenllian comes across as a worthy enough farmer's wife driving an ox-cart instead of a 4x4, rather than the aristocratic figure the bards describe.  She's a bit dim and, good heavens, wouldn't a married woman from St Harmon involved in secret assignations with a stranger in a Llanidloes tavern quickly find herself the talk of the town in 2012, never mind six hundred years earlier.

So is this book a good read and worth buying?  Judge for yourself, I'm afraid I'm the wrong person to ask.

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