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The Heaven Tree: Number 1 in series Paperback – 1 Jul 1999


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Paperback, 1 Jul 1999
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Product details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Sphere; New edition edition (1 July 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0751504734
  • ISBN-13: 978-0751504736
  • Product Dimensions: 17.8 x 2.2 x 10.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 108,799 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Review

If you do not appreciate this superb novel. I despair of you (ILLUSTRATED London News)

a rattling good story (Tribune)

Book Description

The first volume of Edith Pargeter's romantic and much loved trilogy of 12th Century England.

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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 21 April 2004
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I found this the most enjoyable of Edith Pargeter's historical novels. Set in the time of King John, it tells the story of Harry Talvace, mastermason.
The characters are beautifully observed and portrayed, showing a depth of insight into human psychology which is a hallmark of Pargeter's work. She also is a first-rate story-teller. I found this hard to put down.
Enthralling, and at times almost unbearably moving.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By R. A. Williams on 20 April 2010
Format: Paperback
While the amusing 'Cadfael' series has been deservedly successful as light reading - and as the ancestor of all historical whodunits - the 'Heaven Tree' trilogy infinitely surpasses it in literary quality. The story is compelling, the background colourful and well researched, and above all the characters, both major and minor, are unforgettable, from passionate, gifted Harry and good-natured Adam to the austere yet sensitive Abbot of Shrewsbury and the bluff merchant Nicholas Otley. Two characters tower above even these: the courtesan Benedetta and above all, the sinister yet splendid Isembard, who must rank with the best historical creations of such writers as Conan Doyle.

I vividly remember crying bucketfuls over the first volume, which I read for the first time years ago, in a dingy bed-and-breakfast near Bala in Wales. My fuming family had to wait for twenty minutes while I sat on the bottom step and read to the very end, because I utterly refused to move until I'd finished the book.

My only gripe is that Benedetta puts the ostensible heroine, Gilleis Otley, utterly in the shade. Gilleis can't stand the competition: she's pretty but dull, and you wonder how on earth Harry could prefer her. (Harry, on the other hand, holds his own pretty well against Isembard.) In the sequels Gilleis takes a much less important role, which is as it should be.

If you start reading this much underrated novel, reserve plenty of time because you won't want to stop until you've finished. And make sure you have a large box of Kleenex handy for the ending.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 18 Feb. 2002
Format: Paperback
I first read this book 20 years ago and bought the trilogy. I rediscovered it recently and have enjoyed it more the second time around. I don't tend to keep books to re read, but this is a must for any lover of historical fiction. I even stopped reading another book because I didn't want to put this one down! A story of the harshness of the times in 13th Century Britain, whether you be freeman or villein, and the incredible friendship forged between a lad of noble birth and a villein. I really felt for them, especially at the very beginning, and the sad end.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 5 Dec. 2000
Format: Paperback
This is one of my all time favourite books. It makes me cry everytime I read it and I've re read it too many times to count and each time was as good as the last. It's one of those books which you recommend to people but loathe to lend in case you don't get it back!
The whole trilogy is excellent but the Heaven Tree remains the best for me. It's an incredible story which grips you from the outset. I seriousley recommend it but you'll have to buy your own copy.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Misfit TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 31 May 2008
Format: Paperback
The Heaven Tree takes place on the Welsh Marches in the 13C as the nobly born Harry Talvace and his foster brother Adam (Adam's lower born mother nursed Harry) are accused of poaching one of the king's deer. Adam's punishment is to have his hand severed, so both boys escape with the help of eleven year old Gilleis, a merchant's daughter. They eventually make their way to Paris where Harry hones his craft as a master mason and artist. While in Paris, the boys make acquaintance with the courtesan Benedetta (who loves Harry, but her love is not returned) and the Lord of Parfois, Ralf Isambard. Isambard hires Harry to build him a great cathedral at Parfois along the Welsh Marches, and he takes Benedetta along with him as mistress, and although he knows there is one man who Benedetta will love forever he is unaware that it is Harry.

The bulk of the rest of the book details Harry's daily life as he works on the cathedral and his marriage to the long lost Gilleis, and might be a bit slow paced for some readers. However, things do pick up around page 300 or so as a young Welsh hostage who is allegedly a natural born son of Llewellyn Fawr faces hanging by Isambard at King John's orders. Harry makes a desperate choice to save the boy that has dire consequences for himself, his wife and Benedetta, although Harry returns to complete the cathedral despite the sentence of a traitor's death hanging over him.

While this novel may be a bit too slow paced for some readers, the last 100 pages or so completely make up for the slower pace at the start as the author brings Harry, Gilleis and Benedetta full circle in a desperate race to escape revenge minded Isambard and bring Harry's son and Gilleis to safety in Wales. Pargeter's beautiful prose and writing style is one to sit back and slowly savor like a fine red wine or chocolate (or both!), and I am very much looking forward to starting book #2 in the Trilogy, The Green Branch.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Henk Beentje TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 27 Oct. 2010
Format: Paperback
The book: Two foster brothers and apprentice stonemasons grow up together in 1200-1215 on the Welsh/English border, near Shrewsbury, and get into trouble together with a powerful border lord. They have to flee England and learn their craft in France; one of them becomes a master mason and is asked by yet another strong personality on the Welsh border area to build him a church. But more than building comes into their lives - love, and the complicated politics of the Welsh princes and King John.

The writer: Edith Pargeter (1913-1995) was a Welsh/English writer of historical novels and detectives, and is particularly known for the Brother Cadfael stories she wrote under the pseudonym Ellis Peters; she also wrote straight detectives under other pseudonyms.

My opinion: Very well written historical novel, with very real-feeling personalities and interactions, against a real historical background - well-researched, but not in an intrusive way. The politics, and pretty complicated ones, only come in as a faint (but important) background influence. There is adventure, drama, art and emotion; and a lot of humanity. I thought there was a slight 'sag' in the middle, but it is a powerful story, and well told.
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