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The Whispering Bell Paperback – 30 Jan 2009


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Paperback, 30 Jan 2009
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Product details

  • Paperback: 434 pages
  • Publisher: Quaestor2000 (30 Jan. 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1906836019
  • ISBN-13: 978-1906836016
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 1.3 x 22.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,456,538 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

In Anglo-Saxon Mercia at the time of King Penda s wars, the orphan Wynflaed is taken in and raised by a kindly thegn and his family. Upon her marriage to the son of a wealthy landowner, she is given an abandoned lead mine as a 'morning gift'. Clever and practical, Wynflaed makes a success of the mine, thus attracting the jealousy of Rendil, her brother-in-law, who covets the silver by-product of the lead. When her beloved husband is reported killed in battle, Rendil strikes. Falsely accused of adultery and treason, Wynflaed is driven into exile and has her children taken from her. She endures slavery, rape and appalling hardship in her fight for justice. In his first novel, Sellars presents a detailed, fascinating picture of 7th-century England. The Peakland landscapes in all seasons are lovingly described as is the daily life of the thegns, freemen and slaves. He has peopled this landscape with an excellent array of female characters, both high and low. That the women are so much more colourful than the rather dull men is a slight weakness in the novel. Wynflaed herself is a more than feisty match for her various antagonists. She is perhaps not entirely a 7th-century creation but not too irritating a 21st-century one either. The language combines the colloquially modern with fake but convincingly earthy 'Anglo-Saxonisms' - a wife as 'cold as a frog's tit' was a personal favourite. This is a really excellent read, a page-turner that also gives a vivid and convincing portrait of Mercian England. --The Historical Novels Review, February 2009

About the Author

Brian Sellars was born and grew up in the steel city of Sheffield, South Yorkshire. Aged fifteen he started work in the steelworks as an apprentice electrician, and went on to a career in engineering services and management. He travelled extensively selling heavy machinery and engineering systems to foreign governments, oil companies, and civil engineering companies throughout Europe, the Far East, and Australasia. The Whispering Bell is his first novel.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A. Page on 14 July 2009
Format: Paperback
I thoroughly enjoyed Brians' book - from the opening pages to the very end. For me a book needs to do a number of things. First it needs to capture my imagination and engage me from the very first page - this book certainly did that. Second I want to care for the characters, get to know them, and miss them when the book is over - and I really felt like I had lost some good friends when I finally finished it. Third, I want to believe in the characters - and though at times the heroine seemed to endure far more than was bearable I never felt the book was far-fetched and all the characters remained consistent and believable through out. Finally I want to be left wanting more - and in some ways this is where the book is cleverest - it keeps you guessing right to the last page then leaves you with a tantalising glimpse of a whole new chapter in the lives of the heroine and her loved ones. Thanks Brian, great stuff. Where's the sequel??
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Linda Ambrey on 1 Mar. 2009
Format: Paperback
A heart rendering tale of a young woman fighting for the survival of her family in times of war and deprivation. Beaten down at every turn she endures so much pain it becomes almost unbearable to continue reading this superb novel.
The author describes everything so clearly that the reader could almost imagine being at the heroine's side, seeing, touching, smelling and feeling all the wonderful, and the sometimes not so wonderful, things around her.
The ups and downs of this historical romantic novel will keep you enthralled until the last page.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. BRILLIANT!
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The Whispering Bell is set in the early-mid 7th century and focuses on the life of a Mercian woman whose fortunes vary throughout the book and finds herself at the mercy of a male dominated society when things go wrong.

I'll not dwell too much on the plot, what really shines through is the author's love of the Peak District, as a good part of the book is set among the people known as the Picsetan, who were tributary to Mercia during the reign of Penda.

A few details seem to be rather speculative: the idea that the writing of charters and deeds made its way into Mercia ahead of Christianity is particularly unlikely as it was not until the time of Alfred the GReat that there was widespread use of written English outside of monasteries, making the written word a Christian monopoly - one of the benefits of conversion.

At one point I thought that the author had very cleverly used the poem "Wulf and Eadwacer" as a minor influence, but if he was aware of the poem, he did not pursue the theme, and the situation of a woman missing a Wulf only lacked the loathsome embraces of an Eadwacer.

I was a little unsure about the figure of Rabbian (from the Old English verb "to rage"); I can only assume that he is meant to be a proto-Robin Hood, which seems a little out of place. He is also a bit too good to be true.

The narrative inserts about the movements of minor characters are important to the overall story, but they are often too brief to be interesting in themselves and do little to help expand these characters. We learn very little about one of the minor characters until after he betrays the protagonist, which means that there is very little to base our opinion of the betrayal upon.
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It was nice to read about happenings in the 7th century from a Mercian point of view, as generally the stories are about the "Evil" heathen Penda opposing the "good" Christian Northumbrians. This alternative viewpoint was rather nice, although it doesn't overwhelm the story as such. Actually Penda's policies are hardly the subject of the novel, but more the context within which the people in the novel are living. I quite liked the main character, although she could have been more fleshed out, especially when she is taken prisoner and put before the court. The author doesn't let you into her head then, while he certainly does when the more positive occurrences take place (like falling in love - we are well made aware of her feelings then). THe villain in the story was a bit too obviously mad in my view. I would have liked to get to know him a little better, than just the mad ravenings. It is just too neat that he is the bad guy, and his reasoning just a little too simplistic.

There are quite a few loose ends too. If there is a sequel in the wings, well and good, but if not it sure is a pity that the two sisters do not find out they are sisters, what happens to the corrupt magistrate and, finally what happens when Wulfric comes home, whether accompanied by Rabbian or not? Furthermore, although the main character concludes that "it is finally over", this is not so. The villain was not the only one who acted, what about Eadwine's brother - what actually happened to him? Was he the opponent in the cave who finally toppled the villain over? We don't get to know. Nor do we find out whether it is now safe for the main character to live at the place where she lived with her husband once more. How can that be, as her sentence has as yet not been reversed?
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