Memories of the Curlew by Helen Spring (2011)
Amazon Book Description
'Memories of the Curlew' is based on the life of Gwenllian, daughter of the King of Gwynedd, who became known as 'The Welsh Warrior Princess'. At her birth in 1096, the famous Druidic bard Meilyr predicted she would become a great leader of the Welsh. Married to the young Prince of Deheubarth, she supported his mission to build a new Welsh army, while raising a young family in the extreme conditions of life in the mountains. The military struggle was mirrored by personal conflicts, with Gwenllian emerging as a true Welsh heroine. Her story is one of passion, courage and honour, and gives a fascinationg insight into Welsh life at this turbulent time.
The author says: ”In this fictionalisation I have been true to the few original documents which survive from the period, and where they are non-existent my inventions are what I believe to be most likely.”
I found this historical novel interesting in that it gives an image of what life might have been like back in those days (after the Norman invasion of Britain in 1066); but at the same time I have to confess I found it rather hard to properly get into the story and keep the grasp of who was who. For one thing some of the characters have the same or very similar names; like both Gwenllian’s father and her husband were named Gruffudd, and there’s also both an Owen and an Owain (now who of them was the bad guy and who was the good one, again?), and so on. As the names are based on historical facts, one can’t exactly blame the author for that… But it does not make it all easy to pick up the thread again when having had to put the book aside for a while. Gwenllian herself does stand out; it’s the various kings and princes that tend to blend in my head.
I read the book on the Kindle and I haven’t seen it in print, but I would have appreciated a list of characters at the front in this one.
‘I can recall,’ said Gwenllian, ‘when my father talked to me of the curlew when I was a child. He showed me how to know it by its long curving bill, and said that its cry was a cry of mourning, a cry of heartbreak.’