Passages to the Past
Carla Nayland Historical Fiction
S. Krishna’s Books
The story begins with Honora Keeley making plans to begin life as a nun. However, this is not to be. While walking along Galway Bay she sees a man, who appears to be drowning. He isn’t and he turns out to be none other than Michael Kelly, her future husband. Theirs is a love at first sight type of love story. From the beginning you feel the fierce love they share, the strong bond, the willingness to do anything for each other. They marry, although not without many hardships concerning Honora’s sister, Maire. Back in the day the landlords who the people leased their land from were allowed to take a bride price-meaning they could take the bride on her first night away from her husband. Honora’s sister saved her from that but unfortunately put herself into a very awful circumstance.
Honora and Michael make a home and are doing well. They build a home up on a hill overlooking Galway Bay with a big window just for Honora. They plant pratties-potatoes as all the community does-it is their only staple food as the government exports everything else. They will have food all winter or so they thought; unfortunately the blight hits Ireland hard and all the potatoes rot and are inedible. If this had happened for one year, families would have been able to survive. However, it continued on for four years and the government refused to help the people. People were starving and dying not only of starvation but of disease. Honora and Michael were devastated watching their children fading away to nothing. They vowed to each other that their children would live.
More tradegy hits the Kellys and Honora knows she must leave Ireland. She must do what she can for her family so she and Maire take their brood of children by ship to Chicago. America is a whole new world for them, one in which they aren’t easily accepted. Through pure strength of will though the two of them do succeed and do well in spite of everything. Their sons go to war, marry and have children of their own.
Mary Pat Kelly’s writing is wonderful. The research and family stories she put together for this novel amazing. Galway Bay spans six generations. I can’t help but admire having such a rich family history. Honora was, in fact, Mary’s great-great grandmother. This novel in turn made me laugh at times and cry at others. I was horrified by the hardships the family had in Ireland and elated at their victories in America. Mary Pat Kelly takes her readers so fully into the tale that you feel as though you are a part of it all-you made this journey with Honora and Maire and the kids to America. Again, this was a piece of history that I was unaware of and this novel has brought it to the forefront of my mind. As I write this I am watching a program on the The Great Famine on television. It was strange how it just happened to coincide with me finishing this novel. As I’m watching I am continually being reminded of the journey that Honora and Maire took and seeing the pictures and hearing the facts only makes it more scary to me. They were brave and amazing woman who single handedly made sure that there were generations of their family to come for a long time.
I would absolutely recommend this novel especially to those wanting to know more about the Irish-their faith, songs and stories and to those interested in learning a bit more about the struggle of the Irish during The Great Starvation. It’s almost impossible to encompass in a review all that this book holds. There is romance and history and above all, the enduring love of family-such a rich story so worth reading. I also have to mention the book cover itself which is absolutely beautiful. I would like to thank Miriam from Hachette for sending me this lovely book and having me participate in the blog tour for Galway Bay by Mary Pat Kelly.
The Kingmaking by Helen Hollick is Book One of The Pendragon’s Banner Trilogy and what a fascinating account it is of who King Arthur might have been. Now I’ve not read any Arthurian stories before this one but from what I gather the majority of those are like fairy tales-very rosy views of Arthur. I can say in all honesty that I would and do prefer this down to earth, real-life type epic tale any day. This novel took me on a sweeping adventure into the Dark Ages in the history of Britain and I loved it!
This book spans from 450 AD to 457 AD. It’s a hefty book at 563 pages and yet you don’t notice that it’s that long as you are so caught up in the story itself. Helen Hollick’s storytelling ability is amazing. So many times I felt that I was right there in this story, experiencing someone’s pain or happiness, feeling as though I was right in the middle of a medieval battle. It’s fast paced and exciting and very well researched and told.
We start off with Uthr Pendragon coming to Gwynedd to see the Lion Lord Cunneda, ruler of the land. Gwenhwyfar, Cunneda’s only daughter among nine sons, and her brother are watching for the ship to come in. Years past Cunneda and Uthr had fought and lost to King Vortigern. Now they want to change that and give the title back to the rightful King, Uthr. Unfortunately after a bloody battle things don’t come to light as they had planned and Uthr is killed.
This is also the time that Arthur, who after Uthr is killed, finds that he is the rightful heir to Uthr. It is also when we are first introduced to the romance that is to build between Arthur and Gwenhwyfar. At first she thinks he is insolent boy when she finds him staring at her from across the room. They experience a few run ins but later because of both of them being mistreated by female caregivers, they find a common bond and that is when Gwenhwyfar realizes that she loves this boy even though she is only twelve. Before Arthur is to leave Gwynedd, Gwenhwyfar pledges herself to him saying, ‘When I am woman-grown I shall have a greater gift to pledge. I offer you, my Lord, Arthur Pendragon, to use how you choose, my unborn sons!’ (pg. 109, uncorrected advance copy, published copy may be different) This is the start of an epic romance that spans the years and never dies.
Arthur is a character you really want to dislike, yet you find you can’t or at least I couldn’t. Oh my goodness, he’s a wine guzzling drunk at times and definitely a womanizer and yet there is the other side to him~the loyal side. The side that will give his life for Gwenhwyfar or his men. The thing that irritated me the most about him was the political side of the battles between the men. I know Arthur had to do what he could to advance himself in order to take over as King but when he marries Winnifred, Vortigern’s daughter, in a drunken stupor I was really ticked at him. She is the epitomy of evil~scheming and betrayal being her number one priorities. He eventually divorces her to marry Gwenhwyfar but she nevers acknowledges the divorce and in the meantime he has lain with her again and produced a son with her. He refuses to acknowledge this son. He will only ackowledge Gwenhwyfar’s and his own son. If he had learned to keep it in his pants, a lot of the tribulations he had would have been prevented but then the story wouldn’t have been the same either.
Gwenhwyfar was my favorite character. She’s a strong, independent woman in what would have been a man’s world back then. I loved her spirit and quick wit. Many times she had me laughing with her antics. When something bad happened to her I cried with her and when things were good, I was elated for her. I was rooting for her and Arthur all the way. They seem a couple destined to be together and when she even goes to war with him, you again see her strength.
There’s so much one could say about this book. It is very well worth the read. Helen Hollick’s writing is fantastic and the story is enthralling. A few quotes from the book that show off Helen’s wonderful way with words are…
If you’re a lover of historical fiction then this is one epic novel you shouldn’t miss. You will find yourself taken into Arthur and Gwenhwyfar’s world and when it ends you find yourself wanting so much more. I can’t wait to read the next installment in the trilogy which is Pendragon’s Banner and then Shadow of the King. I’m anxious to get back to the Dark Ages of Britain and see what the future holds for Arthur and Gwenhwyfar. I highly recommend The Kingmaking!
Be sure to pop into Peeking Between the Pages tomorrow when Helen Hollick drops by with a guest post to share with us.
Other blog reviews and guest posts with Helen out in the blogging world are and will be:
Harriet Devine’s Blog
Lazy Habits of Thinking interview 2/27
Carpe Libris Reviews
Historical Novels Book Reviews
Lilly’s Reading Extravanganza guest blog 2/25
Medieval Bookworm review
Medieval Bookworm guest blog 2/24
Books Are My Only Friends 2/25
We Be Reading 2/26
A Hoyden’s Look at Literature 2/26
Books Thoughts by Lisa 3/1
S. Krishna’s Books 3/1
Jennifer’s Random Musings 3/1
Passages to the Past 3/2
The Tome Traveller 3/2
Medieval History, Historical Fiction, Fantasy, Writing Fiction 3/2
Savvy Verse and Wit 3/2 and interview 3/3
A Striped Armchair 3/3
Carla Nayland’s Blog 3/3
A Reader’s Respite 3/3 and interview on 3/5
Library Queue 3/4
The Bookworm 3/4
My Friend Amy 3/5
Sam’s Book Blog 3/5
Good Books, Bright Side 3/5
So Many Precious Books, So Little Time 3/6
Susan’s Art and Words 3/6
(borrowed from Medieval Bookworm who had this lovely list all done up~so all credit goes there)