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Penmarric by Susan Howatch

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Misfit
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Penmarric by Susan Howatch

Post by Misfit » Sat January 31st, 2009, 10:52 pm

Penmarric begins as Mark Castallack and his mother Maud, cheated out of their inheritance by a scheming relative, wage a years long court battle to regain possession of the lands of Penmar and the great house that sits upon it, Penmarric. After twelve years and almost losing hope, fate takes a turn as the wastrel son of the current owner dies and a very young Mark is named heir to all of it. Mark marries Janna, who is ten years older, and has a bit of a surprise in store for him from a past relationship – but then Mark has one or two surprises for Janna as well. Building their family dynasty as the new owners of Penmarric, Janna and Mark slowly drift apart until an accidental meeting forever changes their lives, although a new one also begins as a result of that violent night.

Told in five "books", each one in the first person POV of Mark, Janna, and three of Mark's sons, the family's story takes the reader from Cornwall of the late 19C into the 20C through WWII as the next generation of Castallacks battle for ownership of the Penmar estate and the power that comes with it. The middle of the book was bit slow at times, although I _loved_ the last two books telling Phillip's and Jan's stories and the always volatile relationship between the two brothers and their constant battle to be named heir.

If you like those big fat family sagas set in the past with feuding back-biting siblings I'd definitely give this one a whirl - although this one has quite a twist that you don't normally see in a book - the Castallack family and their story parallels that of Henry II, Eleanor, Richard I (the Lionheart) and the always delightfully evil King John. Ultimately, that is half the fun of this book for those reasonably familiar with Henry and his devil's brood - can you pick out which of Mark's sons are young Hal, Geoffrey, Richard and John? Henry's fate after the ultimate betrayal by his sons? Spot Rosamund Clifford, the illegitimate sons Geoffrey and William Longspee? And best of all is how the author resolves the mystery that still haunts us to this day - the ultimate fate of young Arthur, John's rival claimant to the throne of England.

All in all a pretty darn good read, and I plan on trying a few more from this author. Apparently she continues her “Plantagenet” saga with two more books, Cashelmara and Wheel of Fortune dealing with the three Edwards. I understand John of Gaunt is in the latter and I very much hope she throws Katherine Swynford in there as well. I’m sorely torn between four and five stars so I’ll call it 4.5 rounded up to 5.

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Vanessa
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Post by Vanessa » Mon February 2nd, 2009, 11:11 am

Thanks for that, Misfit. It's years since I read it, but it's one I think I'll dig out for a re-read!
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Post by Carla » Fri February 6th, 2009, 6:09 pm

I had great fun spotting Edward I, II, Hugh Despenser, Isabella, Mortimer and Edward III in Cashelmara. Although, if you believe me, I didn't figure out the parallels until I was well over halfway through the book.
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Post by Misfit » Fri February 6th, 2009, 6:26 pm

[quote=""Carla""]I had great fun spotting Edward I, II, Hugh Despenser, Isabella, Mortimer and Edward III in Cashelmara. Although, if you believe me, I didn't figure out the parallels until I was well over halfway through the book.[/quote]

I just got my hands on a copy of Cashelmara and looking forward to it as soon as my library holds ease up (Ludmilla is not helping though :o ). I had it easier in Penmarric as some lovely person who had the book before me had quite a pencil party and marked it up with all the cross references :mad:

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Post by MissMarplestein » Fri February 6th, 2009, 9:28 pm

[quote=""Misfit""]I just got my hands on a copy of Cashelmara and looking forward to it as soon as my library holds ease up (Ludmilla is not helping though :o ). I had it easier in Penmarric as some lovely person who had the book before me had quite a pencil party and marked it up with all the cross references :mad: [/quote]

Well, thanks Misfit, for the advice...I went to the library and checked out Penmarric...looks interesting and I'm anxious to start reading it! Appreciate the tip... ;)

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but known thee with all of my heart.
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Post by alice » Sat February 7th, 2009, 4:50 pm

I read this years ago, and I don't remember any of that Henry 11 linking. I did enjoy the book, it may be time for a re-read now, bearing that in mind.

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Penmarric

Post by Miss Moppet » Fri August 7th, 2009, 9:33 pm

I'm in the middle of this now and completely riveted. It's been ages since I've enjoyed a book this much, so thank you everyone who recommended it. I love the multiple viewpoints and the Plantagenet connection, and I think SH does an excellent job of pacing a long complex book. This is the first book of hers I've read for some reason although her 1970s paperbacks were on the bookshelf throughout my teenage years (wish I knew where they went). So I will definitely seek out the rest.

It did take me a while to get into it, I found it a little thin on characterisation to start with and I wasn't convinced by some of the early period detail (Janna gets married in a bonnet in 1890? Weren't women wearing big hats by then and not bonnets? Correct me if I'm wrong) but I'm really into it now (3/4 way through).

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Post by Misfit » Fri August 7th, 2009, 9:50 pm

I'm glad you're enjoying it. Wait until you try Cashelmara, there are some intense moments in the middle of that one. I still have Wheel of Fortune to read, the library has one well worn hardback and the rest are mass market paperbacks, so I've been waiting patiently for some time now. May have to break down and buy a copy :)

She's written some romantic suspense similar to Victoria Holt that I haven't tried yet. Must get through Mary Stewart first.
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Penmarric & Cashelmara

Post by love_uk » Sat August 8th, 2009, 3:28 am

Read & loved both of these when they first were published but was unaware that Wheel of Fortune made it a trilogy - many thanks for that info. Have re-read Penmarric many times over the years & still love it. I was less familiar with the historical connections of Cashelmara so must re-read that now that I'm more historically-literate. Then on to WOF!
Joan

My test of a good novel is dreading to begin the last chapter. ~Thomas Helm

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Misfit
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Post by Misfit » Sat August 8th, 2009, 11:26 am

Hi Love UK and welcome to the forum. I noticed on another post you'd just finished Susan's The Traitor's Wife, which should greatly enhance your appreciation of Cashelmara. Wheel of Fortune is the third, but they are not exactly a trilogy - the only related characters are the parallels to the Plantagenets, the characters in the books are not related at all.

That said, my understanding of Wheel (don't quote me I haven't read it yet) is it continues in a different setting (Wales) and parallels Edward III and I think ends with Bolingbroke. I think one of the POV sections is that of "John of Gaunt". Woohoo, I can't wait to read that one and find out who his "Katherine" is.
At home with a good book and the cat...
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