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Fair Helen [Kindle Edition]

Andrew Greig
4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)

Print List Price: £7.99
Kindle Price: £4.29 includes VAT* & free wireless delivery via Amazon Whispernet
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Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
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Book Description

Shortlisted for the Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction 2014.

The Scottish Borderlands, 1590s. Harry Langton is called back to the country of his childhood to aide an old friend, Adam Fleming, who believes his life is in danger. He's fallen for Helen of Annandale and, in turn, fallen foul of her rival, Robert Bell: a man as violent as he is influential. In a land where minor lairds vie for power and blood feuds are settled by the sword, Fleming faces a battle to win Helen's hand. Entrusted as guard to the lovers' secret trysts, Langton is thrust into the middle of a dangerous triangle; and discovers Helen is not so chaste as she is fair. But Langton has his own secrets to keep - and other friends to serve. Someone has noticed his connections, and recruited him in their bid to control the hierarchy of the Border families; someone who would use lovers as pawns in a game of war. Saltire Award-winning author Andrew Greig reimagines the Border Ballad Fair Helen of Kirkconnel Lea as a dark romance and stirring adventure. Often called the Scottish Romeo & Juliet, here it is re-presented as the source of an equally famed, more complex drama.


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Review

'Exciting and moving, intelligent and imaginative ... Demands to be read once at the gallop, and then a second time slowly, savouring the details and relishing its intelligence' Allan Massie, Scotsman.

'One of the best historical novels of recent years, Greig dusts off the past and presents it with tremendous skill' Kaite Welsh, Literary Review.

'A triumph of suspense ... what sets Fair Helen above the usual run of historical novels, aside from Greig's extraordinarily deft use of language, is its moral depth, its acute sense of the intricacies of the Border feuds' John Burnside, Guardian.

From the Inside Flap

The Scotland-England Borderlands, 1590s. Principal economy: cattle rustling, kidnap, extortion. Harry Langton is called back to the country of his childhood to aide an old friend, Adam Fleming, who believes his life is in danger. He's fallen for Helen of Annandale and, in turn, fallen foul of his rival, Robert Bell: a man as violent as he is influential. In an ungovernable land where minor lairds vie to rule and blood feuds are settled by the sword, Fleming faces a battle to win Helen, and to stay alive. Entrusted as guard to the lovers' secret trysts, Langton is thrust into the middle of a dangerous triangle - and soon discovers Helen is not so chaste as she is fair. But Langton has his own secrets to keep - and other masters to serve. Someone has noticed his connections, and recruited him in their bid to control the hierarchy of the Border families; someone who would use lovers as pawns in the serious game of power and dynamic supremacy. Striking like a sword into the extraordinary history of the Borderlands, Greig's vital prose renders the Border Ballad Fair Helen of Kirkconnel Lea as a breathless romance, a stirring adventure, and a memento mori. Gutsy, atmospheric and wry as ever, he shine a candle-light on the dark days of a lawless land, and the real woman behind the legend often called the Scottish Romeo & Juliet. Here it is brilliantly re-presented as the source of an equally famed, more complex drama.


Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 976 KB
  • Print Length: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Quercus (22 Aug. 2013)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00CUE0D3I
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Not Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #56,198 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Scotland's Romeo and Juliet 10 Sept. 2013
By markr TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is a beautifully told tale of love, loyalty and rivalry set in late 16th century Scotland. Based on the Border Ballad, Fair Helen of Kirconnel Lea, this novel tells the story of what has been called Scotland's Romeo and Juliet, through the eyes of someone who was an observer of events as they unfolded.

Retelling the story of the most memorable days of his life, the narrator, now in his seventies, looks back on the events of his youth - the family rivalries of the Scottish Borders, the kye (cattle) rustling, the jockeying for political and family favour, the passions, loves and regrets of his life.

The story flows very well, building up in intensity nicely towards the end, and I found myself happily immersed in Scotland in the days of James VI, or Jamie Saxt, for a few pleasant hours. I supect I would not have enjoyed it there, then, though...

Andrew Greig uses Scottish words fairly frequently throughout the book -this really helps with the atmosphere of the tale and if you are Scottish you will have no problem - if not there is a helpful glossary at the end of the book, though most of the words come to mind fairly intuitively without that.

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and was sad to have turned the last page.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Utterly delightful 14 Sept. 2013
By Big Jim TOP 100 REVIEWER
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I have to confess to being a huge fan of Andrew Grieg and was really looking forward to this book. This was not in vain as he has produced what may be described as an old fashioned sort of book, one that tells a well worn tale with heart and soul and a fair sense of drama. For me Grieg's main accomplishment has always been an ability to paint beautiful pictures with language that is neither pretentious nor fussy, just to the point and somehow "good". In this case he succeeds brilliantly although to be fair, because of the consistent use of Scots vernacular many will find the glossary a constant companion, which may hinder the flow for non Scots but even then Grieg's gentle pacing and subtle rhythms mean that most readers won't find this a burden.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb historical novel 8 Oct. 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I was inspired to purchase this on Kindle by reading a review in the Literary Review (which the publishers have yet to add to the complimentary comments from other press reviews on Amazon). It is, quite simply, one of the finest historical novels I have ever read. Wonderfully realized in both the place and time it describes, the 1590s in the lawless Borders, where blood feuds going back generations are still rife, it has great literary merit without sacrificing historical accuracy. It describes a cruel and violent period with lyricism that is often moving and is utterly compelling from the first page. I can't praise it too highly.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
By Lady Fancifull TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Oh blessings on Andrew Greig! He never disappoints this reader.

In Fair Helen he has gone for an old, or I should say, Auld Ballad, and expanded it. It is the tale of the borders, reivers, a couple of student friends in `Embra' in the 1590's, during the time `Jamie Saxt' is King of Scotland and the `Auld Hag' is dying on the throne of England. Meanwhile there are dark conflicts a-brewing between the Auld Religion and the Reformers. We are set for a fine tangle between Politics, Church, State, Ancient Enmities and Loyalties - and incandescent loves.

Adam Fleming, a heidsman's son son falls hard for Fair Helen, an Irvine, who is betrothed (against her wishes) to the powerful son of another clan. These are lawless times (when were they not). Fair Helen is the cousin of Harry Langton, the narrator, a poor scrivener and friend of the Fleming son, who becomes embroiled and a pawn in a deeper game than just that of taking care of his friend and his cousin.

What is new in this piece of writing from Grieg is that it is right in his heritage as a Scottish writer, and there is much which is in the vernacular. And a pretty muscular and rich vernacular it is too.

I made a big mistake in getting this on the Kindle, as the glossary is much less accessible than it would be in the paper book.

So I gave up and surrendered to working out the meanings and hoped I was not making too many mistakes!

But don't think Greig is just a folksy folky writer. He digs a rich seam of love requited and unrequited, filial duty, violence, and his central narrator, our poor scrivener, is deliciously dry, and wry, particularly in his footnotes (reasonably easily found on the Kindle without too much distraction).
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant! 9 Jan. 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
A vivid , visceral tale set in the wild border country of 16th century Scotland. The characters were beautifully drawn by Andrew Greig. A poetic genius!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Characters as alive as today 25 Nov. 2014
Format:Paperback
Without doubt one of the best books I've read this year. As Andrew Greig has to be one of the finest poetic novelists I've ever read.
Set in Scotland's 1590's but with characters as alive as today and with so many, many phrases that made me catch my breath at the sheer joy of them.
There is tension and drama and love and language - wonderful indeed. A book to be re-read soon.

And fans of Dorothy Dunnett or Emma Darwin should certainly see this one out, as a starting point.
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Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
A superbly rendered version of 'Fair Helen of Kirkconnel Lea,' a border ballad.

The author's working of the ballad into a story of love, rivalry and the end of days of the Border Reiver is full of atmosphere and a sense of the time.

Andrew Grieg is a Scottish Poet of renown and it shows in his skilful word smithing. A glossary of old Scottish words is included and becomes your best friend, so it isn't an easy read, but a beautiful one nonetheless.
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