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Owen Glendower: A Historical Novel [Paperback]

John Cowper Powys
3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Book Description

29 Jun 2006
It is the year 1400, and Wales is on the brink of a bloody revolt. At a market fair on the banks of the River Dee, a mad rebel priest and his beautiful companion are condemned to be burned at the stake. To their rescue rides the unlikely figure of Rhisiart, a young Oxford scholar, whose fate will be entangled with that of Owen Glendower, the last true Prince of Wales - a man called, at times against his will, to fulfill the prophesied role of national redeemer. Psychologically complex, sensuous in its language, vivid in its evocation of a period shrouded by myth, 'Owen Glendower' tells a compelling story of war, love, and magic.

Product details

  • Paperback: 777 pages
  • Publisher: Gerald Duckworth & Co Ltd; New ed edition (29 Jun 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0715635549
  • ISBN-13: 978-0715635544
  • Product Dimensions: 19.8 x 13.6 x 4.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 482,214 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

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Product Description


'Powys' great historical novel, Owen Glendower... is a book to handle, to make notes in, to savour... Brilliant' Margaret Drabble, The Guardian 'Beside Owen Glendower, with its largesse of recaptured life, nearly all historical novels are charade' --George Steiner, The New Yorker

About the Author

John Cowper Powys (1872-1963), lived in the U.S. as well as his native England, was the author of ten novels, including A Glastonbury Romance, Autobiography and Weymouth Sands, as well as many works of criticism and philosophy.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
38 of 39 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Read this masterpiece! 30 Aug 2007
Owen Glendower is a huge and wonderful novel by the genius John Cowper Powys (1872-1963).
When I finished the novel (938 pages in my edition) I was sad that the joy of reading came to an end. In 21 long chapters with titles such as: The castle, The sword of Eliseg, Mathrafal, The maid in armour and Difancoll, you can already sense what this novel is about. It tells of the Welsh uprising under Owen Glendower at the beginning of the 15th century. It is also about the love affair between Rhisiart - the other protagonist - and the beautiful red-haired Tegolin.
Owen Glendower (born in 1354 or 1359) was the last Welsh prince who fought the English. He was not a militarist (he received a fashionable education at the Inns of Court) but a man who almost against his will became the leader of an army. In 1400 he organised a rebellion against the English king Henry IV, and claimed the title Prince of Wales. Students and labourers joined the uprising. They were succesful, but in 1405, after the siege at Woodbury Hill near Worcester, Owen retreated to Wales.
His wife and children were captured by the English and Owen became a hunted man. He was never caught and probably died in 1416.
So far for history, but Powys' novel is much, much more. It is a wonderful philosophical novel, a bildungsroman of Rhisiart, an adventure novel (but the first scene of battle is on page 550!), a fantasy novel if you like (all lovers of 'The Lord of The Rings' should read this book!)
The style of writing is exuberant, rich, colourful, poetic (in the best sense of the word: full of sound and smell; full of rhythm, symbols and metaphor).
The characters are colourful and interesting:knights and friars, maidens and warriors, bards and bishops, Lords and Kings, are etched on the readers mind.
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3 of 36 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Disrespectful, Painfully Awful 28 Jun 2010
I have not, and cannot, read this book - simply because I am aghast that someone writing about the 'Last True Prince of Wales' (which he indeed was), could call him by the ridiculously false name of 'Owen Glendower'. I am truly disgusted.

His name was 'Owain Glyndwr' - and I hold the author in absolute contempt for blatantly anglicising a Welsh name when the whole subject of the book is about the 'Last True Prince of Wales'.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.0 out of 5 stars  1 review
19 of 22 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Lord Powys 23 Nov 2007
By Daniel Myers - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I can see why I'm the first to chance a review here. - This novel, or historical novel, or whatever one may choose to call it, is decidedly, it gives me pause to admit, after devoting much time and concentration to its 777 pages, NOT Powys's best. Here you will find what you will find in Powys's other novels (Maiden Castle and Wolf Solent, being to my mind, the best), to wit: a main character who much resembles Powys himself - "our friend Rhisiart" as he is referred to herein - along with the major themes with which all Powys's novels are preoccupied, "elementalism" - a variant of animism or of what Ruskin wrongly and dementedly, to my mind, called Wordsworthian "pathetic fallacy" and above all, the "life illusion" or "personal mythology" of Rhisiart, Owen and all other major players here. But, in this novel, Powys chooses an historical backdrop, with battles and diplomacy and other trappings of Nationalistic (Welsh, in this case) fervour which make it, well, a very clumsy read. The greatest flaw is the fathomless well of longueurs concerning Powys's favourite themes which wash over and threaten to drown the reader in the middle of every suspense-filled moment in the book where one is turning the pages to see who has died and who hasn't, what great sea change has occurred in the tides of fortune and battle etc. etc. After one or two instances, the reader (or this one) becomes irritated to an ever greater pitch every time these interludes obtrude. Here, Powys, however greater an artist, au fond, he may have been, could have taken a page from Tolkien (if Tolkien's pages had predated Powys's) and just got on with things. Powys may very well have held with Sir Thomas Oldcastle that, "Action-any action.....meant evil as well as good" and wished to postpone it for as long as possible, but this method of composition is just not on, so to speak, in a novel with a backdrop such as this one where "to lose the name of action" is to lose the reader's interest and attention.

Another (more serious) concern here is the "race consciousness" which permeates the book from first page to last. I've no idea if Powys picked up the notion from Jung or Nietzsche or what, but he clearly latched on to it and, as Dr. Krissdottir points out in the Introduction, lived in Wales the entire time of the book's writing, and was called "Lord Powys" by at least one of his neighbours. Powys obsession with atavism is deep, thought-provoking and singularly moving in his other books. Moreover, it rings true and adds heft to the artistic virtuosity of those works. - Here, it degenerates into gimcrack stereotypes to which the most addle-pated of racial theorists might lend a nod.

Despite these reservations, Powys writes so strikingly too many times to give the opus less than 4 stars. Meredith contemplates near the end, when all seems lost (p.767), "...but the dead needn't be forgotten - they couldn't be. They were in us! While we lived our half-life, they lived their half-life. Dark, dark, dark - the life of the living, the life of the dead!"

If you're willing to plough through many pages for gems like these, you WILL be rewarded. But I can't imagine many but the most devoted Powys enthusiasts, like myself, resolute enough to muddle through to the last syllable.
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