The Grove of Eagles: A novel of Elizabethan England by Winston Graham

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The Grove of Eagles: A novel of Elizabethan England by Winston Graham

Category: Historical Fiction
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: Ani Johnson
Reviewed by Ani Johnson
Summary: Although the same author, this isn't a Poldark, but still historical fiction that brings some heart stopping moments from 16th century England – a land and era of fear.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 656 Date: February 2016
Publisher: Pan
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1509818617

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Maugan Killigrew grows up in material comfort as the acknowledged illegitimate son of Sir John, the Governor of Cornwall's Pendennis Castle. Yet, despite the comparative comfort and because of other's austere attitudes, Maugan never feels quite as accepted as his many half-brothers and sisters but there's little time to consider that. Times are changing. Queen Elizabeth I is getting older and the English are still at war with the Spanish, a nation that will have quite an effect on Maugan's life. Romance, conflict and imprisonment, Maugan will experience it all and, hopefully survive it all but we shall see..

Winston Graham is primarily known for his 13 Poldark novels. However this isn't the sum total of his work; he wrote another 33 books on other subjects, including the novel on which Alfred Hitchcock's film Marnie was based. The Groves of Eagles was actually the book after Marnie, being written in 1963, focussing on stories based on the real life Killigrew family.

Our guide through the novel, Maugan is perhaps a little less defined than Poldark was. Our view of him comes via the reactions and comments of others as he is understandably more interested in those around him than revealing facets of himself. The Maugan we see is a young, eager lad who feels unsettled and reluctant to go along the pathway his strict and selfishly brutal father envisages, especially when it comes to love.

At the same time Winston shows us other areas for concern than just those of the heart. This is an era in which those hoping to rise in the ranks must tread a careful line between two faiths. Catholicism is closely connected to the Spanish enemy and so terminally painful punishments await those who differ from the monarch's pro-protestant stance. Each spoken or written word must be guarded and carefully selected as there are spies and those charged with religious enforcement even in outposts like Cornwall (albeit a strategically important outpost).

The other thin line to walk is between legality and criminality in a financial sense. It takes a lot to keep a castle going in entertainment costs as well as maintenance. Luckily… to a point… on the Cornish coast there are always methods of topping up funds in desperate times like this last quarter of the 16th century. Indeed, Winston keeps us on the edge of our seats through a few dark maritime raids.

Although heavy on the detail in places (at one point we're even regaled with room measurements as well as a description of fixtures and fittings), the second half of the novel sparkles with high adventure and excitement. The fun really takes off when Maugan manages to connect with Sir Walter Raleigh, a comeback kid… well… man if ever there was one. By this time Raleigh is obsessed with fabled foreign treasure and Maugan catches the enthusiasm.

There are also some great historical lightbulb moments scattered throughout. For instance, I'd never realised how close to the shore the English/Spanish naval skirmishes were. The fortunate locals could actually sit along the cliffs and watch the English navy give chase.

This may not be a novel that contains the initial compulsion to which Poldark fans have become accustomed, but there's too much good stuff within the 600+ pages to discount. By shaving off a couple of hundred pages this could have been a 5*. As it stands, it's a read that's worth the time for the greatness lurking within waiting to ambush us with delight.

(Thank you, Pan, for providing us with a copy for review.)

Further Reading: For those of us who are Poldark fans, we heartily recommend The World of Poldark by Emma Marriott. If you'd like to learn more of fear that stalked Elizabethan England, we just as highly recommend God's Traitors: Terror and Faith in Elizabethan England by Jessie Childs. But if you just fancy a good escapist read without the realism, Sir Walter Raleigh also pops up in the superlative All Souls Trilogy by Deborah Harkness.

Buy The Grove of Eagles: A novel of Elizabethan England by Winston Graham at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Grove of Eagles: A novel of Elizabethan England by Winston Graham at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy The Grove of Eagles: A novel of Elizabethan England by Winston Graham at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Grove of Eagles: A novel of Elizabethan England by Winston Graham at Amazon.com.


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