Maybe Five Stars is too many for this book. But I really liked how quirky it is. Moorhouse starts out by explaining just how sketchy the information i...moreMaybe Five Stars is too many for this book. But I really liked how quirky it is. Moorhouse starts out by explaining just how sketchy the information is on his subject, so everything in the book has to be taken with a grain of salt. He then launches you into a series of short stories (yes, complete fiction!) concerning life in an Irish monastary in the sixth through 12th centuries, about one story per century. The second half of the book is a glossary of sorts, 2-5 page essays on a variety of subjects, meant, as the author says, for reflection and meditation more than factual info. It's not a wholly reliable tool for information, but it does whet the appetite so enjoyably that I had fun reading it, and that's the most important thing here. De-romanticising Irish history is difficult, but Moorhouse does it without condescension. --or maybe he does it by over-romanticising, and telling you upfront that this is what he's doing, but that there are kernels of truth in his quest.(less)
I've read four of the Sister Fidelma mysteries now. I don't read serial novels very much, and when i do I like to be able to read them out of order. I...moreI've read four of the Sister Fidelma mysteries now. I don't read serial novels very much, and when i do I like to be able to read them out of order. I read this one after the first one because it was the "Christmas" offering in the series. No. 11 in the series, it turned out to be spookier, grittier, and more "into" tho common folk of Sister Fidelma's era (7th century Britain) than was the first entry. Perhaps the winter atmosphere made it so, but it was much more effective, I felt.
The "Christmas" attitude was tempered by the fact that it was also the season of the Celtic pagan "Yuletide" and the reader truly felt the grimness of winter in this bleak story. Also, Sister Fidelma and her companion, the monk/doctor Eadulf, were this time sidetracked and snowbound in what might be a haunted monastary where a spooky murder has been committed. Not exactly your usual Christmas fare. .
Written by Peter Beresford Ellis, under a pseudonym, a scholar of Celtic historical culture, these novels have a realism that pervades the text, even within the fantastic circumstances.
I'll probably take a long break before reading any others of the series, but the fact that I read four, pretty much in a row, speaks to how well I thought of this set of mysteries.
Howatch's characteristic gothicism mixed with wordiness pays off in this story of the three Edwards of England, though the story is transplanted to la...moreHowatch's characteristic gothicism mixed with wordiness pays off in this story of the three Edwards of England, though the story is transplanted to late 19th century Ireland, and instead of a kingdom, the lands at stake are those Irish lands owned by a horrible, horrible English family. And yet, in the midst of these awful people, the reader can still empathize, even while the various family members and their consorts casually employ rape, sado-masochism and murder to solve the problems inherent in keeping the starving Irish peasantry under their thumb. All in all, a very enjoyable, spooky read that makes you root for the Irish wholeheartedly!(less)