The Hosts of Rebecca by Alexander Cordell

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The Hosts of Rebecca by Alexander Cordell

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Category: General Fiction
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: The sequel to Rape of the Fair Country could be heard as a standalone, but double your pleasure and listen to them both. You won't regret it. Narrator of the audio version, Matt Addis, popped into Bookbag Towers to chat to us.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 240 Date: January 1960
ISBN: 978-0575033139

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At the end of Rape of the Fair Country Iestyn Mortymer had been sentenced to deportation for seven years because of the part he played in the Chartist rebellion and the Newport Rising of 1839. His mother, wife, Marie, younger brother, Jethro, sister, Morfydd and the two children of the family returned to the land, living on a farm owned by Marie's grandfather. The life was hard and not just for the Mortymers, with poverty breathing over their shoulders and it was made worse by the tollgates installed by landowners, effectively adding a levy to any produce which the farmers attempted to move.

The tollgates were one of the factors which sparked the Rebecca Riots, so called because the leader was disguised as a woman to protect his identity and this quirk was taken up by the men who followed him. At night they would burn the gates and the toll house to free up the way through. Jethro Mortymer, struggling on the land and finally forced, with his sister Morfydd, to go down the pit simply to make enough money for the family to live, joined the local band of Rebeccas.

The writing is superb: Alexander Cordell, who doesn't have the recognition he deserves, brings the people of South Wales to life. People suffering hardship so often become caricatures of themselves in literature but Cordell doesn't fall into this trap. All his characters are rounded, with Jethro's growing attraction to his brother's wife sensitively developed. Even in poverty love will make itself felt. Cordell paints pictures with words and listening to (or reading) the book the images are compelling and the pictures not always pleasant. There was violence on both sides of the Rebecca Riots and life down the pits was never pleasant and always dangerous, sometimes fatally so.

The outcome was almost certain from the beginning - the government could not allow the lawlessness to continue and the militia was brought in - but it's impossible not to root for Jethro and to hope that at the very least he escapes with his life. It would be something of a cliché to say that I was sat on the edge of my seat, but I was conscious that I was holding my breath, worried about what was going to happen next - and there's no let up until the final pages.

I listened to an audio download narrated by Matt Addis. I've now listened to four books narrated by him and on the second third and fourth I've doubted that he could live up to the superb standard of the last book, but yet again I needn't have worried. I am in awe of the fact that he can even keep track of all the different voices, never mind produce them in such a way that I was never in any doubt about which character was speaking. I've said before that it's like listening to a play with added narration, but I can't think of a better way of describing the performance. It's absolutely faultless (so few narrations are) and I'd like not only for him to do the final part of the Mortymer trilogy, but to produce lots more audiobooks.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to the Bookbag.

You could read or listen to this book as a standalone, but you'll more than double your pleasure if you start with Rape of the Fair Country.

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