Copyright © Louise Bostock 2007-2013. Please give credit where credit is due.

Monday, 13 October 2008

Book Notes No. 14 : The Warrior's Princess, Barbara Erskine

Fourteen degrees at 9am. Overcast, warm and still. But with the sun gently warming its way through by midday.

I'm big into composting.

Any reasonably hygienic organic waste from this house is collected in a non-too-chic green bucket and periodically hauled to the garden where stand two monster composters both humming with digestion activity. Less trash to take down the hill to the dumpsters and less peat compost to haul up on my back in non-biodegradable plastic bags that I then have to take down the hill to the dumpsters...

In order to make decent compost, I've found you need plenty of variety in the raw materials : lots of rich kitchen waste, a touch of wood ash, a layer of grass clippings, with some chicken feathers and newspaper for structure.

As with composting, so with reading. Every reader's diet benefits from a combination of the very rich - writing that makes you work hard, writing that makes new connections, that defamiliarizes the everyday and shows it to the reader in a fresh new light - with the 'structural' - a damn good story that engages the senses, conjures complex and vivid images and forces you to read to the very end.

Calvino vs Gaiman
Rushdie vs Gregory
Vargas Llosa vs Erskine...


Barbara Erskine's latest book, The Warrior's Princess is one more on the conveyor belt of voices-calling-from-ancient-history stories that has done her and her agent well for many years now. Her first novel, Lady of Hay, was a runaway success (I was one of millions of immediate fans), and all her work has followed similar themes : characters from the past making use of modern-day people to tell their own stories or to play out old vendettas.

In this novel, the heroine is victim of an attack perpertrated by someone she suspects she knows well. When she leaves her home in London to stay with her sister in a lonely cottage in the Welsh border country, the looked-for peace is disturbed by the voice of a mysterious child calling for help. The search for the child's story ranges from Wales to Rome and back again, threatening the heroine's life, friendships and sanity, and drawing into danger all those who seek to help her.

This is a hefty novel of about 550 pages, and a good, meaty read with plenty of ancient-Rome detail and some really chilling moments. Lots of visions, scrying, tarot-reading, hauntings, miraculous healing and talking to the long-dead. Great stuff, but after 10 novels along similar lines, I'm starting to feel that Erskine needs a new idea.

I was also fairly disappointed by the fragmentary denouement, although I have to admit to reading it while nursing a sick child through the worst of a wheezing fit, so perhaps I'm not the best judge. That being said, the sudden appearance of a character from a previous novel, and, worse still, the introduction of a new bad-guy at the last minute is to me a sure sign that time and the publisher's patience may have been running out on this particular title.

Verdict? Borrow it from the library and enjoy. Even chicken feathers and newspaper contribute to good compost.

4 comments:

Dan said...

Louise

I really like your site a lot, because it's a living account of someone pursuing their dream.. a few years ago, my wife and I packed up everything in London and went to live in Southern Ireland. It was great for the kids, but we ended up coming back for work reasons.

Wish You all the best with your site, and you have a wonderful style of writing too, easy to read.. oh, by the way, I'm into composting too, and have a small kitchen garden which I love to potter around in.

Good Luck

Daniel Hunt

IB said...

Great post! I love organic gardening, have been a composter many years and I love a good read. I really enjoyed how you managed to tie the 2 subjects together.

I'll continue to read your blog. Good luck to you.

IB

http://idiotsstew.blogspot.com

Désirée said...

Composting is so great I have hard to understand why anybody with a garden can live without it. And it is perfect for the environment.

Unfortunately I am short of chicken feathers... In the compost?! Well, why not?

I dump bones from chicken and turkey in there too. But they do take time, so I have an almost morbid bone yard at the bottom of the container.

BPOTW said...

Very interesting. The book sounds like it would be a good read. I'll have to see if my library carries it.

My stepmother composts and I've always wanted to do it. Never had the land or garden to though.

We lived in Stuttgart, Germany for four years. We were able to travel to Italy a couple of times. That's awesome that you get to live there!

Thanks for submitting your post to BPOTW!

Monday, 13 October 2008

Book Notes No. 14 : The Warrior's Princess, Barbara Erskine

Fourteen degrees at 9am. Overcast, warm and still. But with the sun gently warming its way through by midday.

I'm big into composting.

Any reasonably hygienic organic waste from this house is collected in a non-too-chic green bucket and periodically hauled to the garden where stand two monster composters both humming with digestion activity. Less trash to take down the hill to the dumpsters and less peat compost to haul up on my back in non-biodegradable plastic bags that I then have to take down the hill to the dumpsters...

In order to make decent compost, I've found you need plenty of variety in the raw materials : lots of rich kitchen waste, a touch of wood ash, a layer of grass clippings, with some chicken feathers and newspaper for structure.

As with composting, so with reading. Every reader's diet benefits from a combination of the very rich - writing that makes you work hard, writing that makes new connections, that defamiliarizes the everyday and shows it to the reader in a fresh new light - with the 'structural' - a damn good story that engages the senses, conjures complex and vivid images and forces you to read to the very end.

Calvino vs Gaiman
Rushdie vs Gregory
Vargas Llosa vs Erskine...


Barbara Erskine's latest book, The Warrior's Princess is one more on the conveyor belt of voices-calling-from-ancient-history stories that has done her and her agent well for many years now. Her first novel, Lady of Hay, was a runaway success (I was one of millions of immediate fans), and all her work has followed similar themes : characters from the past making use of modern-day people to tell their own stories or to play out old vendettas.

In this novel, the heroine is victim of an attack perpertrated by someone she suspects she knows well. When she leaves her home in London to stay with her sister in a lonely cottage in the Welsh border country, the looked-for peace is disturbed by the voice of a mysterious child calling for help. The search for the child's story ranges from Wales to Rome and back again, threatening the heroine's life, friendships and sanity, and drawing into danger all those who seek to help her.

This is a hefty novel of about 550 pages, and a good, meaty read with plenty of ancient-Rome detail and some really chilling moments. Lots of visions, scrying, tarot-reading, hauntings, miraculous healing and talking to the long-dead. Great stuff, but after 10 novels along similar lines, I'm starting to feel that Erskine needs a new idea.

I was also fairly disappointed by the fragmentary denouement, although I have to admit to reading it while nursing a sick child through the worst of a wheezing fit, so perhaps I'm not the best judge. That being said, the sudden appearance of a character from a previous novel, and, worse still, the introduction of a new bad-guy at the last minute is to me a sure sign that time and the publisher's patience may have been running out on this particular title.

Verdict? Borrow it from the library and enjoy. Even chicken feathers and newspaper contribute to good compost.

4 comments:

Dan said...

Louise

I really like your site a lot, because it's a living account of someone pursuing their dream.. a few years ago, my wife and I packed up everything in London and went to live in Southern Ireland. It was great for the kids, but we ended up coming back for work reasons.

Wish You all the best with your site, and you have a wonderful style of writing too, easy to read.. oh, by the way, I'm into composting too, and have a small kitchen garden which I love to potter around in.

Good Luck

Daniel Hunt

IB said...

Great post! I love organic gardening, have been a composter many years and I love a good read. I really enjoyed how you managed to tie the 2 subjects together.

I'll continue to read your blog. Good luck to you.

IB

http://idiotsstew.blogspot.com

Désirée said...

Composting is so great I have hard to understand why anybody with a garden can live without it. And it is perfect for the environment.

Unfortunately I am short of chicken feathers... In the compost?! Well, why not?

I dump bones from chicken and turkey in there too. But they do take time, so I have an almost morbid bone yard at the bottom of the container.

BPOTW said...

Very interesting. The book sounds like it would be a good read. I'll have to see if my library carries it.

My stepmother composts and I've always wanted to do it. Never had the land or garden to though.

We lived in Stuttgart, Germany for four years. We were able to travel to Italy a couple of times. That's awesome that you get to live there!

Thanks for submitting your post to BPOTW!