There are a number of tried and tested strategies novelists use to gain interest in their novels, the choice of a plot built around Christianity without the adventure of a quest is a brave one. The beginning of this book is slow and unless you are a reader of romance you may be tempted to give up. No, don't, this book is well worth persevering with and the necessity for the beginning being the way it is to set up the characters, soon becomes apparent. The protagonist Abi Rutherford is a curate, recently qualified, she is a fine example of a keen, modern, clergy person, not least, I suspect because she is female.
The story begins with Abi being sent to assist a vicar close to her family home in the enchanting Cambridge. Without wanting to spoil the plot, soon she is off to Somerset and much of the book is centred around the spiritual town of Glastonbury. Erskine has obviously researched this book very well, and visited Glastonbury and soaked up the amazing atmosphere there. The Christian theme is cleverly intermingled with some of the many other religions common in Glastonbury. Always believable within the plot, the novel is both thought provoking and entertaining. Druidism, Goddess worship and Christianity are practised by different characters within the book and how they are linked becomes apparent as you read through the book. Spirituality, ghosts and healing are all here in this contemporary vs traditional religion plot, but which is really the oldest style of Christianity, which is right? There are surprises in store for the reader who will be drawn into debate the story-line. Time travel also features heavily, so if you are a female fan of Doctor Who, you will really love this Sci-Fi element to this book!
The characters are carefully written, believable and as varying as real life.
Mid-way the plot asks a lot of questions, by the end many of them are answered. Where this book is clever, is much of the plot will draw the reader to think about the different religions, how they are linked, how they have built today's religions and to question how much the different traditions have learnt from each other.
At no time does this book preach to the reader, in fact it promotes an open mind and enquiry. It could do much for the already buoyant tourist industry in Glastonbury and would be a wonderful book to take with you to read if you are planning a holiday in that part of Somerset. Indeed, if you have visited Glastonbury, this book will offer a nostalgic read, if you are thinking of going, this will tempt you to go.
A surprisingly intelligent page turning read.
Thank you for reading my review of Time's Legacy, I have been careful not to go into too much detail and spoil the story for you, but hope I have written enough to tempt you?
Barbara Erskine has been among my favorite female novelists for many years now. For me, I suppose she's as near as I'm likely to get to 'Chick lit' preferring my novels to challenge my intellect (unless I'm reading Stephen King of course). There could be something in that, Barbara Erskine is said to be 'a great storyteller' which, I've found, usually refers to authors who continuously write good books.
I can't quite believe that its 25 years since she first made a name for herself with 'Lady of Hay' one of her best-known and loved books. I started reading with that debut novel and have read most of her books since then. Perhaps I find her writing comfortable, I know what to expect from her and this new book is mostly in keeping with previous novels.
The reverend Abi Rutherford has crossed swords too many times in her new role as curate to the difficult Rector, Kieran Scott, and their personalities and Christian beliefs becoming increasingly hard to reconcile. The last straw comes when Abi is accused of witchcraft when Kier sees strange lights around her in the church.
The next blow is harder to take when her mother dies and her father takes against her in his grief. Abi leaves with her few belongings and a large crystal, which her mother left to her with some strange instructions. Her bishop manages to find her a retreat with a Christian family, the charismatic Mat and his pleasant wife, Cal. Mat's brother, Ben is her spiritual advisor and at first it seems she will find sanctuary in the lovely location of Woodley manor with it's old Roman ruins and it's friendly resident ghosts.
But Abi is soon to find that life is not quite the idyll she first enjoyed when she starts to see more into her 'visions' aided by the Serpent rock, her crystal the catharsis.
Who is the enigmatic stranger who arrived on the shores of Somerset and strayed with the druidic community of Glastonbury in 25AD? What will the visions reveal to her and how will she reconcile her clairvoyance with her Christian faith?
......Characters and their importance.....
Erskine writes beautifully with a strong basis in character-driven plots. This isn't much different to her usual format of mixing modern day people with characters from past history. She likes to research the backgrounds of minor characters from history and add her own slant to some true-life events. This time she has outdone herself in trying to marry Christianity with the Druidic faith, and by placing the characters close to Glastonbury I feel she's attempted her most ambitious plot to date. Whether it works depends on what you expect from a book of fiction and if your own beliefs are affected by what she is trying to achieve. In my title the suggestion is one that is confirmed almost on the first page, but there are plenty of red herrings and surprises.
True to form the characters are either strongly drawn or come across with amorphorism. The line between the present day characters and the past are more firmly drawn than previous books. Abi seems much more of a 21st century female pastor who happens to have some commonality with a druid priestess, but no dual identity is suggested in this book. There is the classic love affair, but it's not star-crossed and her female characters are either strong or faintly ethereal. I did find her male protagonist irritating which is unusual. There is a sense of inevitability with many of the characters except for one I am trying not to mention too much. Unfortunately with a character-driven plot, it's hard not to give too much away.
Where the plot takes over, it follows a given path that Erskine's readers will find comfortable. Given the ambition of the plot, I think it unravels quite well, though drags a bit where she tries to become enigmatic. Also, this is the first time that she has employed the use of several clairvoyant and malevolent characters. There is bound to be some explosive passages, but sometimes I found myself anticipating them.
Using Glastonbury as the main place of action works well. She has researched this area as well as she does for all her novels. The Glastonbury of magic and myth is there, but her use of the old Celtic names is a good touch for those of us who don't think of the area as the 'Avalon' made up by a 13th century monk to say it was King Arthur's burial place.
In her 'Author's Note' she says that her research took her away from much of the
'Mania' about new age magic and led her into areas of research that kept her captivated by its changing but persistent legacy of early Christianity coming to England's 'Green and pleasant Land.'
There is a nice descriptive touch to the modern-day Glastonbury, but I liked the older version better, with it's wind-blown and mist-haunted slopes of the island of apples.
I enjoyed the book and I'm sure that many of her fans will feel the same. Whether she achieved her goal I will leave to you. The idea was a good one and she must be given credit for attempting such a difficult subject. Still, it didn't quite make my standards for five stars.
This book was printed in 2011 and you can get it in most places for a few pounds. Mine was a library book, though I will probably buy a 2nd hand copy to add to my collection.
As always, thanks for reading.
©Lisa Fuller 2011.
Time's Legacy is the latest of Erskine's historical fantasy novels and follows her typical style. As usual, she takes a modern day character - this time a novice pastor Abi, and links her to a story in the past. In the stunning, atmospheric setting of Glastonbury, Abi connects spiritually to a Roman family and through her their story develops.
Typical of Erskine are strong, interesting characters with the backdrop of vivid and descriptive locations that make the book brilliant escapism - as all of her books that I have read so far are. Being a historian, her stories are also always incredibly well researched and Time's Legacy is no exception. Although sometimes with a far fetched premise, the story is told in such a convincing and thorough way that one can really get lost in Erskine's world.
A criticism I would have of this book is that fans of Erskine may be starting to see her novels become a little bit too familiar. She has recently seems to have become more and more reluctant to stray from her proven plotline - that of the parallel stories in different times, and some might find this tedious before too long.
Nevertheless, this is really an enjoyable read and one that I would recommend, particularly to someone who has not read and Erskine novel before.