Tregian’s Ground by Anne Cuneo, Roland Glasser (translator) and Louise Rogers Lalaurie (translator)

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Tregian's Ground by Anne Cuneo, Roland Glasser (translator) and Louise Rogers Lalaurie (translator)

Category: Historical Fiction
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Ani Johnson
Reviewed by Ani Johnson
Summary: The wonderful (and panoramic) story of a 16th century Cornish Catholic and musician/instrument maker that will appeal to even the most unreligious and musically disinterested. Totally enthralling!
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 450 Date: April 2015
Publisher: & Other Stories
ISBN: 978-1908276544

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An old man living with a Swiss family sits down to write his story. He was originally an English instrument maker and so much more besides. History will come to know him as Frances Tregian the Younger, musician, copyist and recusant (refuser of the Protestant faith) in an Elizabethan world where following the Roman Catholic Church can be a death sentence and fleeing to Europe is often the only way to survive.

This is generally the bit in my reviews when I provide a line or two about the author. In this case a couple of lines may not suffice but we'll have a go... In précis, Anne Cuneo, French born of Italian parents, Swiss and English raised, writer, film maker, journo, 15 novels in four decades, dozens of plays for theatre, TV and radio... Get the gist? She's done a fair bit!

It's not always that a writer with an interesting life writes interesting fiction. In this case Anne and her equally talented translators have it sussed – this is totally engrossing.

The first thing we notice is that the writing is both small and tightly packed. Please don't let this put you off. I started with that 'Oh heck!' feeling but within the first couple of pages I realised that this is the sort of story I'd finish wanting more.

Frances Tregian the younger may be famous in classical music circles but I'm betting there are more people than me who wouldn't have heard of him before Anne's fictionalisation of his life. Having read it, we're amazed we haven't heard of him, to be honest. This guy led an amazing life that captures the most non-musical imagination, while being a bit of a twit at times. Yes, it's reassuring that geniuses are human too!

It's written in the first person as Frances tells his own story with a voice that's informative, sometimes wryly humorous but always with a twinkle that ensures we warm to him no matter what he's up to. In this way, Anne takes us through a childhood of fear and eviction, on to an adulthood boasting friends like Shakespeare and then shoulder-rubbing with some of the crowned heads of Renaissance Europe. On the way we learn much about the dangerous, unstable era while we're immersed in wondrous factoids that sit alongside the atmosphere seamlessly.

Take, for instance, the prison system. Anne recounts the story of a Catholic priest who was thrown into London's infamous Marshalsea for his Catholic faith but then was let out on a daily basis to celebrate Catholic mass and communion. His own end may not have been a happy one, but even so, the freedom of the open prison system he was afforded shows the two-faced nature of justice at the time.

Reading around the subject, there appears to be controversy as to whether Tregian should be linked to the famous (again to some, but not me before this) Fitzwilliam Virginal Book as copyist. However Anne provides notes at the back with her reasoning as to why she believes that he was instrumental. (Sorry – couldn't resist!) These marvellous notes also demonstrate the amount of research Anne waded through in order to regale us. No wonder the novel won the Prix des Libraires when it was first published in France.

Indeed, by the time we take our leave of Francis as he awaits my Lady Death we are breathless and amazed, not to mention chuffed, to have made his acquaintance. And the really good bit? Tregian's Ground is another novel from & Other Stories, the publishing house that proves once again crowd funding knows a good thing when it sees it.

Thank you so much & Other Stories for providing us with a copy for review.

Further Reading: If the historic prison system has amazed you in the way it gobsmacked me, we recommend the historical crime novel The Devil in the Marshalsea by Antonia Hodgson. If it's Elizabethan England that fascinates you, we also definitely recommend The Time Traveller's Guide to Elizabethan England by Ian Mortimer

Buy Tregian’s Ground by Anne Cuneo, Roland Glasser (translator) and Louise Rogers Lalaurie (translator) at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Tregian’s Ground by Anne Cuneo, Roland Glasser (translator) and Louise Rogers Lalaurie (translator) at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy Tregian’s Ground by Anne Cuneo, Roland Glasser (translator) and Louise Rogers Lalaurie (translator) at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Tregian’s Ground by Anne Cuneo, Roland Glasser (translator) and Louise Rogers Lalaurie (translator) at Amazon.com.


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