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Bryher

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Margaret
Bibliomaniac
Interest in HF: I can't answer this in 100 characters. Sorry.
Favorite HF book: Checkmate, the final novel in the Lymond series
Preferred HF: Literary novels. Late medieval and Renaissance.
Location: Catskill, New York, USA
Contact:

Bryher

Postby Margaret » Thu September 4th, 2008, 6:38 pm

I've just read Ruan, a 1960 novel by Bryher (her name was Winnifred Ellerman, but she renamed herself after one of the Scilly Isles, not just as a pen name but as her legal name). It's a lovely, short, lyrical novel reminiscent of some of Rosemary Sutcliff's novels, set in sixth century Britain. (Review at http://www.HistoricalNovels.info/Ruan.html.) I'm surprised I never discovered this author before.

Who's read some of her other novels? She wrote two set during the time of the Norman Conquest: The Fourteenth of October and This January Tale. The others that I know of are Gate to the Sea, about a priestess in a colony of enslaved Greeks; Coin of Carthage, about the Second Punic War; and Roman Wall, about the Roman Empire in what is now Switzerland. They all look interesting.
Browse over 5000 historical novel listings (probably well over 5000 by now, but I haven't re-counted lately) and over 700 reviews at www.HistoricalNovels.info

annis
Bibliomaniac

Postby annis » Fri September 5th, 2008, 7:53 am

I enjoyed your review of Bryer's "Ruan", Margaret. Bryer was a fascinating woman. We've recently been discussing novels about about WWII, which reminds me that she early realised the implications of the Nazi movement for Jewish people. In 1933 she wrote an article entitled "What Shall You Do in the War?", about the situation of Jews in Germany, urging people to take action and was frustrated by the lack of response. Starting that year, her home in Switzerland became a "receiving station" for Jewish refugees escaping German persecution; she helped more than 100 people escape before she herself was forced to leave in 1940. She wrote an interesting SF novel called "Visa for Avalon" which was inspired by that experience.

I read her novel "The Fourteenth of October' earlier this year and was struck by her haunting, vividl prose. It's set just prior to, during and after the Battle of Hastings. The story is infused with melancholy and nostalgia for a long ago golden age. Because the common people of England don't support Harold Godwinsson in his fight against the Norman invaders but shrug their shoulders, thinking one king as good as another, the country and its traditional freedoms are lost.

This extract from a review of "Visa for Avalon" perfectly describes the theme of "Fourteenth of October:
"Evoking Arthurian legend, Avalon is an aura in this work more than a place. Bryher focuses not on what we gain by leaving but on what we unwittingly give up when our apathy leads to a precipice: either trade in "some freedoms" and blend in with the mob, or leap into exile."
This latter option is the one taken by the protagonist in "Fourteenth of October".

I hadn't come across Bryher until I saw her books listed on the Historical Novels Info site, but I was impressed, and will definitely be searching out further titles to read. "The Player's Boy" is meant to be particularly good, so I may start there as it's one which has been reprinted relatively recently.

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Ludmilla
Bibliophile
Location: Georgia USA

Postby Ludmilla » Fri September 5th, 2008, 10:33 am

I've read The Roman Wall, which is a very interesting evocation of Roman attitudes in what was then the frontier (Switzerland). I remember thinking the history was excellent, and I liked how she describes the setting and so forth, but the characters left me a little cold. It's a short, quick read, too. I'd recommend it to anyone interested in the Roman Empire. I've got The Coin of Carthage in my TBR pile, but haven't read it yet. Her novel, The Player's Boy, set in 17th century England looks interesting to me, too (and I think it is one of the few that are actually still in print and you can buy new).

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Margaret
Bibliomaniac
Interest in HF: I can't answer this in 100 characters. Sorry.
Favorite HF book: Checkmate, the final novel in the Lymond series
Preferred HF: Literary novels. Late medieval and Renaissance.
Location: Catskill, New York, USA
Contact:

Postby Margaret » Wed February 11th, 2009, 11:04 pm

Our own Moseyer has contributed a review of Bryher's The Fourteenth of October at http://www.HistoricalNovels.info/Fourteenth-of-October.html. She liked it very much. It's an elegiac tale which focuses as much or more on the old way of life that would disappear as a result of the Norman Conquest as on the events of the Conquest itself.
Browse over 5000 historical novel listings (probably well over 5000 by now, but I haven't re-counted lately) and over 700 reviews at www.HistoricalNovels.info

annis
Bibliomaniac

Postby annis » Thu February 12th, 2009, 12:38 am

I enjoyed Sue's review. I found the "Fourteenth of October" an evocative novel. It has a powerful subtext about alienation and apathy; Bryher uses the character of Wulf to express the loneliness of being an outsider and the only person in his community who is able to see the consequences and long term results of not acting before it's too late to prevent an inevitable and devastating progression of events. As I mentioned earlier, I feel that her sense of powerlessness in the face of the rise of the Third Reich particularly coloured her POV, permeating "Fourteenth of October" with Weltschmerz.
Last edited by annis on Thu February 12th, 2009, 7:11 pm, edited 3 times in total.

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EC2
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Location: Nottingham UK
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Postby EC2 » Thu February 12th, 2009, 9:20 pm

I've never heard of her before, Margaret. Thank you for the reviews. Another one to check out. My library just may have her as they carry a lot of older stock of this sort of thing.
Les proz e les vassals
Souvent entre piez de chevals
Kar ja li coard n’I chasront

'The Brave and the valiant
Are always to be found between the hooves of horses
For never will cowards fall down there.'

Histoire de Guillaume le Mareschal

www.elizabethchadwick.com

chuck
Bibliophile
Location: Ciinaminson NJ

Bryher

Postby chuck » Fri February 13th, 2009, 12:33 am

"EC2" wrote:I've never heard of her before, Margaret. Thank you for the reviews. Another one to check out. My library just may have her as they carry a lot of older stock of this sort of thing.


Margaret....looks like you found another "Gem".....I've ordered "Ruan" through my library's loan program (God Bless All Libraries)....Thanks Annis and Ludmilla for your fine endorsements.......I looked her up....She is the stuff of books/films.....Really an interesting women and her/their life deserves more attention.....I'm looking forward to her books......

User avatar
Margaret
Bibliomaniac
Interest in HF: I can't answer this in 100 characters. Sorry.
Favorite HF book: Checkmate, the final novel in the Lymond series
Preferred HF: Literary novels. Late medieval and Renaissance.
Location: Catskill, New York, USA
Contact:

Postby Margaret » Fri February 13th, 2009, 6:48 am

Yes, someone should write a biography!
Browse over 5000 historical novel listings (probably well over 5000 by now, but I haven't re-counted lately) and over 700 reviews at www.HistoricalNovels.info

User avatar
Margaret
Bibliomaniac
Interest in HF: I can't answer this in 100 characters. Sorry.
Favorite HF book: Checkmate, the final novel in the Lymond series
Preferred HF: Literary novels. Late medieval and Renaissance.
Location: Catskill, New York, USA
Contact:

Postby Margaret » Sat September 12th, 2009, 7:20 pm

I finally got around to reading The Player's Boy, one of Bryher's novels that has been published in a new edition (2006) and is readily available, and I've posted a review. As one might expect, it's beautifully written. It's set in the years after the death of Queen Elizabeth I, and is filled with nostalgia for her reign, though mostly by implication. There's something wonderfully indirect about Bryher's work - you don't feel your reactions are being manipulated, though of course they are.

If anyone's written a biography of Bryher, I'm not aware of it, but she did write two memoirs:

The Heart to Artemis: a Writer's Memoirs (1963)

The Days of Mars: a Memoir, 1940–1946 (1972) - Bryher lived in Switzerland during the years leading up to WWII, but left during the rise of the Nazis. She was in London during the Blitz. This memoir is probably particularly relevant to some of the themes in The Player's Boy, which includes some implicit criticism of England's pre-war appeasement of Hitler.
Browse over 5000 historical novel listings (probably well over 5000 by now, but I haven't re-counted lately) and over 700 reviews at www.HistoricalNovels.info

Ash
Bibliomaniac
Location: Arizona, USA

Postby Ash » Sun September 13th, 2009, 3:05 am

I read Visa for Avalon, a short book about the need to escape from a dysutopian world. Very well done; never read anything else by her tho.


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