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Owen Glendower

3.74  ·  Rating details ·  81 ratings  ·  12 reviews
Owen Glendower is John Cowper Powys' brilliant re-imagining of the life and exploits of Wales's national hero.
It is the year 1400, and Wales is on the brink of a bloody revolt. At a market fair on the banks of the River Dee a mad rebel priest and his beautiful companion are condemned to be burned at the stake. To their rescue rides the unlikely figure of Rhisiart, a youn
Hardcover, 777 pages
Published November 10th 2003 by Harry N. Abrams (first published 1940)
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Average rating 3.74  · 
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 ·  81 ratings  ·  12 reviews

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Dec 30, 2016 rated it really liked it
Poor old JCP - see the problem here is that, if you like to read "historical romance", you are unlikely to be interested in all the interiority, the theorising and the usual JCP shenanigans, but, if you are in to all that, you are probably unlikely to care about all these princes and battles and Walter Scott-esq fun and games...

As I have a fondness for both, and a close connection to the Welsh landscape and history that provides the source for this novel, I enjoyed myself immensely.

The second h
Aug 13, 2012 rated it it was amazing
August 2012: As of right now, this is the best novel I have ever had the honor and joy of reading.

October 2019: The only new novels I've read since that can at all compare in terms of (and I mean these as a combined package) scope, ambition, imagination, sensitivity, and excellence, are the author's own Porius, Ursula Le Guin's Malafrena and Annals of the Western Shore, William Golding's To the Ends of the Earth, and Thomas Mann's Joseph and His Brothers. Only of the Mann could I say definitivel
Perry Whitford
Aug 22, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Lovers of vivid historical fiction
Epic historical novel set in the 14th century about the last leader of an independent Wales, the prince / warrior-wizard Owen Glendower.

The real protagonist of the novel though is Rhisiart, a relation from Hereford of Norman stock. He idolises the Welshman and joins his freedom fighters, becoming Owen's secretary, suffering and surviving various imprisonments and privations along the way.

The real hero for me though was Powys himself, whose intense, fevered prose captivated me across the entire
Jed Mayer
Nov 19, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Imagine the narrative and historical scope of Tolstoy, combined with the eccentric intimacy of psychological perspective offered by Proust, and you have some sense of the singularity of Powys' genius: this book is a challenge, make no mistake, but its richly evoked past will enfold you, until your own neighborhood seems less real than fifteenth century Wales. ...more
Carl Waluconis
Nov 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, novel
This largely unmentioned classic will take you back to a medieval setting in Wales. It has intense characters, strange magics, struggles for kingdoms, and portrayals over decades. (Also, much better written than the "Game of Thrones" books.). However, be warned. It takes some concentration to read. The delineation of characters as we enter their minds in great detail takes pages to build. I found that I had to plan large reading time slices. Each chapter develops in such a way that breaking them ...more
Sep 23, 2011 rated it did not like it
Truly one of the most boring books I have ever had the misfortune to read. I finished it out of spite. It took more than a year to finish this book, it was that dull. How do you make an exciting time in history really boring? Why, write about it in the most purple, opaque, labored prose possible, and throw in a whole buncha misogyny, with bonus creepy rape-tastic sex scenes (in veiled 1940's language, but it's still clear what's happening). This is supposed to be a classic historical novel, so I ...more
Judith Johnson
Feb 09, 2014 rated it really liked it
I was reading this when I was pregnant with my son, and he narrowly escaped being named Rhysiart, which might not have gone down so great in 1980s Hackney!!
Feb 09, 2008 rated it really liked it
A bit longish, and the court romance sections slow down the narrative, but great if you love Wales and can stomach Powys' flights of fancy. ...more
Jun 21, 2017 rated it did not like it
I have been an avid reader for over 50 years. This is I think only the second or third novel I have ever abandoned. I'm counting it as 'read' since I got more than halfway through. It was boring, confusing, rambling, I could stand all that, but the gratuitous and salacious sex and violence got to me in the end.
It made me feel physically sick. Oh, and there's a disturbing undercurrent of paedophilia in there, too.
Dec 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
By far the best historical novel I've read. Totally compulsive and more action-packed than other JCP novels. A large cast of brilliantly evoked characters with Owen Glendower himself being the perfect historical person for JCP to write about as he has so many affinities with him. As usual the quality of writing is second to none - JCP is the most underrated writer - surely in need of reassessment. ...more
Robin Dawes
Jul 03, 2013 rated it did not like it
Grossly over-rated - one of the most pretentious, tedious exercises in authorial self-indulgence I have suffered my way through. I pushed through to the end hoping against hope that it would eventually live up to the literary hype - alas, it never happened. This may be a perfect example of a novel that is praised to the sky by legions of critics who have never tried to read it.
Mar 01, 2010 marked it as to-read
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Powys was born in Shirley, Derbyshire, where his father was vicar. His mother was descended from the poet William Cowper, hence his middle name. His two younger brothers, Llewelyn Powys and Theodore Francis Powys, also became well-known writers. Other brothers and sisters also became prominent in the arts.

John studied at Sherborne School and Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, and became a teacher

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