The Wayward Gentleman: John Theophilus Potter and the Town of Haverfordwest by Patricia Watkins
|The Wayward Gentleman: John Theophilus Potter and the Town of Haverfordwest by Patricia Watkins|
|Category: Historical Fiction|
|Reviewer: Sue Magee|
|Summary: A lightly-fictionalised telling of the story of the author's great-great-great grandfather, but don't worry this story deserves to be told and it's very well written. Recommended. Patricia Watkins popped into Bookbag Towers to chat to us.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 360||Date: November 2012|
|Publisher: Down Design Publications|
|External links: Author's website|
In 1778 John Theophilus Potter (Theo to his friends) came to Haverfordwest from Dublin with a group of actors to put on two performances of Romeo and Juliet. A careless accident left him unable to return with the other players - and then he met Elizabeth Edwardes, from a family of local gentry. Friendship turned to love and whilst some in the town wondered (in a rather loud voice) that the Edwardes should allow Elizabeth's friendship with an actor, Theo was no strolling player without a penny to his name. He was a 'gentleman player' with a considerable fortune and a very respectable income. He was also a restless man, constantly driven to achieve.
Ideally he would have wanted to return to Dublin and continue acting with the Smock Alley Players, but Elizabeth was disinclined to leave Haverfordwest. She wanted nothing more than to build a home and fill it with children. Theo relished his part in bringing the children into being but lacked much in the way of patience when it came to their upbringing. The Wayward Gentleman is the story of the years that followed.
Now there's some intriguing background to this story. Theo Potter is the great-great-great-grandfather of author Patricia Watkins and The Wayward Gentleman is her lightly fictionalised retelling of the years Potter spent in Haverfordwest, close to where she has lived since returning after decades spent in the USA. My heart inevitably sinks at the thought of reading about an author's forebears - families are usually only interesting to family - but I lived in Swansea for a time and I've a soft spot for South Wales. Then, when I began reading, I realised that this book is very, very well written and the story of Theo Potter is one which deserves to be told.
Theo Potter flies off the page fully costumed. He's used to being in the limelight and he's personable in a way that many actors are not. Skillful writing meant that we watched him mature over the course of the book, whilst we saw Elizabeth become more and more of a homebody. Even the 'bit players' have real, individual personalities. There's an obvious affection for the characters, but it's an honest telling of the story: I howled with laughter at the events of the masked ball and I cried over Theo's horse, Hercules - twice. There's a real sense of Haverfordwest too and best of all it comes from an author who knows her subject rather than someone who has done a lot of research to flesh it out.
I read the book in two sittings and the time simply flew by. It's a genuinely engaging story with characters who stay in your mind when you've turned the final page and I'd like to thank the publisher for sending a copy to the Bookbag.
For another story from the same period we think that you might enjoy The Stockholm Octavo by Karen Engelmann.
You can read more about Patricia Watkins here.
Patricia Watkins was kind enough to be interviewed by Bookbag.
You can read more book reviews or buy The Wayward Gentleman: John Theophilus Potter and the Town of Haverfordwest by Patricia Watkins at Amazon.co.uk.
You can read more book reviews or buy The Wayward Gentleman: John Theophilus Potter and the Town of Haverfordwest by Patricia Watkins at Amazon.com.
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