Posts Tagged ‘Fiction’
Although it is not the Georgian festival but the Victorian image that we now draw on for the ‘Olde Worlde’ look of a ‘traditional’ Christmas: tree, turkey, mounds of presents, the Nutcracker Suite; in Georgian times Christmas was celebrated energetically and there was an earthy side to it. Gothic novel The Shadow of Nanteos takes place in the early 1750s. With the second George on the throne, it was a time before the railway, before the great Turnpike Roads and the celebration of the Christmas festival had not begun to be commercialized.
According to some historians, Christmas was perhaps less important in terms of ritual than the celebration of the New Year in Wales. Certainly it was only one part of the church and folk calendar that included many other important dates such as Candlemas, the celebration of which is now largely lost to us.
Almost everything would have been made by hand and at home, the great houses and estates such as Nanteos supplying everything that was needed, from the Yule Log in the grate, to the horse’s skull and dead wren of the New Year’s wassail celebrations.
On Christmas and ‘Boxing’ Day, the ban on hunting was traditionally lifted and groups of men would go into the woods armed with weighted sticks to kill the native red squirrels. In living memory the great house of Nanteos has hosted its Boxing Day Hunt and ball – with the fox as quarry.
Welsh would very much have been the language of the area and of the house too – certainly below stairs and among the workers of the estate. According to my research, the 1750s were a turning point in many ways. Until this time, many gentry families, despite their town houses and English Public School educations, would also have been likely to be able to speak Welsh.
The festivals were an excuse to get out of the dark, damp, smoke filled hovels in which people lived. They would burn precious fuel in huge bonfires, share hoarded resources and crowd together to beat back the dark of Winter.
On the eve of Christmas, the church practice of Plygain lasted all night and the congregation did more than just follow the service: in many accounts they seem to be the service. Each parishioner brought a candle to light the church that night.
Even in fine houses such as Plas Nanteos, there was a much smaller degree of separation between ‘master’ and ‘minion’ than in Victorian times. Some servants still routinely slept in their employers’ bedrooms, as they had since Medieval times and customs such as the deliberate ‘misrule’ of Twelfth Night – where master and servant switched roles for a night, were widely enjoyed.
The following extracts are from Jane Blank’s latest novel The Shadow of Nanteos, published by Y Lolfa. As Emma Corfield said on Radio Wales ‘The Shadow of Nanteos is the perfect book for Christmas’.
This historical thriller, set in 18th century Wales, uses the real-life
setting of Nanteos Estate, as it’s superstitions, tales of haunting, and the
powerful Nanteos Grail cast a shadow on its new occupants.
Superstition, tales of haunting, and the powerful Nanteos grail cast their shadow over the house and soon the family is caught up in a vicious political and legal battle that will end in tragedy.
The Shadow of Nanteos tells the fictionalized story of one generation of the Powell family, who actually owned the estate for centuries. Considered one of the most haunted buildings in Wales, Nanteos Mansion now operates as a luxury, country hotel. It was featured on an episode of Ghost Hunters International.
2015, 288 pages (Y Lolfa)
ISBN 978-1-78461-171-2 Paperback $17.00
Since visiting Nanteos mansion at the age of ten, Jane Blank has been haunted by the Grade I-listed Georgian house near Aberystwyth, nowadays a five-star hotel. The Shadow of Nanteos is her second novel and has been long-listed for the Historical Novel Society Awards, 2015. Jane divides her time between teaching English and Drama at a Welsh-language secondary school in south Wales, writing, and working for an environmental charity. For a full profile in her own words, click here and you can view a slideshow tour of the estate here.
Click here for more on the Legend of the Nanteos Cup
Author Jo Uddermann has published an autobiographical novel about certain dark events in his past. Expectations run high both in the publishing house and the media, but after an appearance on television sinister things begin to happen: anonymous letters, Barbie dolls with their heads cut off, dead squirrels on the stairs in front of his house. His life with his wife and daughter in Oslo no longer feels secure. Someone is out to get them. When their friend Katinka is found dead, in an old rose painted coffin in a bog, suddenly there is no knowing who to believe or who to fear. Finally, Jo finds his daughter sitting on a stump in the forest, having seen something that neither child nor adult should see. Nik Frobenius is a Norwegian novelist and screenwriter. He wrote the screenplay for the Norwegian film Insomnia, which was later adapted into the Hollywood film of the same name starring Al Pacino and Robin Williams.
“Frobenius adroitly charts the disintegration of his hero’s life in this astute psychological study.”—Publishers Weekly
ISBN 978-1-910124-53-6 Paper $17.00
Ella has a difficult relationship with her domineering father, and with apartheid South Africa, the troubled country in which she lives. Whilst seeking political refuge in Europe Ella makes an unexpected discovery that forces her to confront both her father’s ghosts and the shape of her own future. In the Netherlands, the country of his birth, her father, Ella finds, never officially recognized her existence.
“Boehmer creates a microcosm of apartheid South Africa, telling the story of one girl growing up in the shadows of her family’s past. . .The descriptions of the landscape are breathtaking, invoking the vastness of the country and the magic of childhood.”—Kirkus Reviews
“A carefully crafted and riveting read from beginning to end.”—The Midwest Book Review
ISBN 978-1-910124-29-1 Paper $17.00
London, 1810. A raid on a notorious tavern sees the city gripped with hatred of gays, coupled with suspicion of their political sympathies. A few miles away in St James’s Palace, the Duke of Cumberland’s valet suffers a violent death, which the authorities are anxious to see only as suicide. Caught between these two historical events, the fictional lawyer Wyre is reluctantly drawn into a network of dark alliances that appear to link the raid on the White Swan Tavern, the death at the Palace, and the war against France. Leading to a shocking revelation, the novel explores a labyrinthine city of asylums, brothels, and secret spaces, in which poets rub shoulders with pimps, and where the only constant is illicit desire.
“Turley makes his fiction debut with a superior whodunit inspired by a major sex scandal of the Regency era…Combines a gritty look at the times with a carefully constructed murder mystery that resolves itself in a way that may even surprise genre vet”—Publishers Weekly
ISBN 978-1-910124-10-9 Paper $17.00
This novel, set in rural Wales, explores the tensions that existed within Welsh society in the 1950s. Tensions between Welsh and English-speaking Wales. Between north and south. Between those who wanted to preserve their heritage, and those who wanted prosperity at any cost. Between the generation who had experienced the war and the young people who see Wales within a wider European and world context.
“Following a family through [Wales’] growing pains and economical/political shifts, Thomas offers a unique look at nationalism.”–World Literature Today2015, 399 pages (Y Lolfa)
ISBN 978-1-84771-824-2 Paperback $20.00
Anna Fekete, who fled the Yugoslavian wars as a child, starts working as a criminal investigator in a northern Finnish coastal town, with her new partner, Esko, who doesn’t bother hiding his racist prejudices. Anna’s work as a criminal investigator barely gets off the ground before she is thrust into a high-profile, seemingly unsolvable case that has riveted the nation. A young woman has been killed on a running trail, and a pendant depicting an Aztec god has been found in her possession. Another murder soon follows. All signs point to a serial killer, but can Anna catch the Hummingbird before he – or she – strikes again? Kati Hiekkapelto is a special needs teacher by training. She lives on an old farm on the island of Hailuoto in Northern Finland. This is her first novel. Translated from the Finnish by David Hackston.
“Heikkapelto’s brooding debut, a large-scale police procedural set in a small Finnish town…promises tough and powerful crime fiction to come.”–Publishers Weekly
2015, 364 pages (Arcadia)
ISBN 978-1-909807-56-3 Paperback $21.00
Peter Millar embarks on a literally reverse-engineered train journey through this still exotic, diverse, and challenging North African country, struggling to maintain its unique blend of tradition and tolerance in the turbulent winds of the Arab spring.
From the snake charmers and food stalls of Jamaa el Fna, Millar takes us to the ancient walled city of Fez, the wineries of the Meknes valley, cosmopolitan Casablanca, tacky Tangier, and the anomalous Spanish exclaves of Ceuta and Melilla, squatting on Morocco’s Mediterranean coast like a counterpoint to British Gibraltar.
“The culture and landscape of Morocco are showcased in this frequently humorous chronicle of Millar’s journey by train through the country.”—World Literature Today
“A well-experienced, well-written account of one of the few remaining stable countries in the Arab world.”—Library Journal2015, 246 pages (Arcadia)
ISBN 978-1-909807-59-4 Paperback $27.00
Pal has a shameful secret that has dragged him into huge debt, and he is desperate that his teenage daughters and ex-wife don’t find out. Sixteen-year-old Sandra also has a secret. She’s in love with the delinquent Daniel William, a love so strong and pure that nothing can get in its way. Cecilie has the biggest secret of them all, a baby growing inside her. But she’s trapped in her small-time, criminal existence, and dreams of an escape from it all. Over three fateful September days, these lives cross in a whirlwind of brutality, laughter, tragedy, and love that will change them forever. A fast-paced, moving, and darkly funny page-turner.
“A dense literary novel that moves like a thriller…Renberg gives us a novel, rooted in noir softened by comedy, that gets to the serious business of how our shortcomings are all linked.”–Kirkus Reviews2015, 552 pages (Arcadia)
ISBN 978-1-909807-60-0 Hardback $34.00
The death of her son Joseph in mysterious circumstances in France has sent Louise Tennant spiraling into grief so desperate she feels she is going mad. His last cryptic email to her before he is killed plays on her mind: she must find out what happened to him. Angry and self-absorbed, Louise has always alienated those she loves, including Joseph, a researcher for a pharmaceutical company. Now guilt and grief drive her into a darkening world where the people she confronts seem determined to prevent her from finding out the truth. What follows is a harrowing journey into a world of mirrors within mirrors where no one is who they seem.
“[A] probing psychological study.”–Publishers Weekly2014, 234 pages (Sandstone Press)
ISBN 978-1-908737-53-3 Paperback $16.95