I absolutely loved this latest book by Barbara Erskine. In it, she tells the story of Abi Rutherford, a curate who moves to a new parish, working under the priest there, Keir, who is behaving in increasingly more irrational ways. Abi is given a crystal by her mother, which has been handed down from generation to generation, and in it she can see the story of a druidess from 2000 years earlier.
This is an absolutely fascinating book. It covers Christianity and the Church of England, and mixes this with paganism and healing. There is a dual time narrative - one story is about Abi and the other is about Mora, the druidess, and a young man who is accompanying her in her healing visits, and who is an amazingly accomplished healer himself. This man's story is one of the most fascinating things in the book, as the reader, and Abi, gradually become aware of his identity.
I felt immense satisfaction when I reached the conclusion of the story. I was sorry that it had come to a close, but I felt it ended perfectly. The author has obviously done a lot of research into the various subjects covered in the book, and she's written a totally engrossing story, and one which I would recommend to anybody who enjoys historical fiction, dual time narratives, and books that cover different religions.
Abi Rutherford is assigned to a parish in Cambridge to work with the charismatic Kieran. But it quickly becomes clear that the two cannot work together. Abi offers her resignation to the Bishop when Kier accuses her of witchcraft and summoning demons when they both hear music and see a ghostly congregation in the church. The Bishop is reluctant to lose Abi and offers her a retreat to an old manor house near Glastonbury owned by Mat and Cal. It seems Abi has nothing to do but rest, pray and consider what she wants to do with her future. But she has brought some of the past with her in the shape of the mysterious Serpent Stone left to her by her mother. Abi is also attuned to the local ghosts and she falls under the spell of Glastonbury and the surrounding countryside.
What follows is a tense and complicated story which reveals some of the events which happened in the area 2000 years ago. Christianity meets Druidism and pagan religions head on in this tense and exciting story. Abi's attempts to reconcile her own beliefs and what she sees of the spirit world make enthralling reading; but it is not just the ghosts of the distant past whom she needs to understand but those of her own past as well and her life seems to be in danger when the unstable Kier tracks her down to her retreat.
There are some fascinating characters in this story - Abi herself; Ben the sensible and erudite clergyman and his brother Justin a Druid and expert on Glastonbury itself; then there's Athena who runs a shop selling crystals and her own handmade jewellery who befriends Abi. The struggle to reconcile Christianity with other belief systems, or with none at all, is very much a story of our times. The interweaving of the modern story with the events of the past which still cast a shadow is as ever skilfully achieved by Barbara Erskine.
This book is a little different from some of her previous novels in that the heroine is a Church of England vicar but it is every bit as good as this author's previous work. Her many fans will love it and it may win her new admirers. If you like Phil Rickman's Merrily Watkins series of Susan Howatch's Starbridge novels you will enjoy this book. I loved it and couldn't put it down though I didn't want to reach the end and was sorry when I turned the last page.
This is the first book by Barbara Erskine which I have read and I was a touch concerned that it would turn into some sort of romantic novel. fortunately was wrong and the book has proven to be a very well written supernatural fantasy with cleverly balancd elements of romance, action and scares. The story is written in a wonderful style which keeps one engrossed in the action and expectant for more. I find that a trait of a really really good book is that about 3/4 of the way through one gets sad and a little paniced that one is coming to the end of such a reading pleasure. This is certainly something which I encountered reading Time's Legacy.
Being lucky enough to have got to read a pre-published version of this book through Amazon vine, I would not like to spoil the plot for anyone. But in a really good good way it has that haunting feel like the best 70s Hammer Horror film - forget the dated effects but remember that spooky "on edge" feeling you had going to bed after watching one of their late films. This book has the unnerving feeling about it. Set in contemporary Glastonbury the story concerns a just-resigned curate; Abi who has moved on due to issues with the sinister Kier. Cleverly interwoven with this is a glimpse into 2000 year old mysteries which hinted that Jesus visited England in Druidic ancient times - The illuminated and highly liminal William Blakes hinted as such in his wonderful "Jerusalem".
Readable, excitable and well researched I loved this book and feel that touching us on such a deep mythic level it will appeal to many people.
I loved this book, so many threads built in, from the misty legends of Christ visiting the UK when an adolescent, to ancient myths, new age beliefs along with a good dollop of mystery, suspense and thrills thrown in to the mix too!!
My favourite authors are Anya Saton, Jean Aual, Diana Gabaldon and Julliet Marillier, and would recommend to any fans of these authors too.
on 28 June 2011
I have thoroughly enjoyed the other Barbara Erskine novels (indeed, I think I've read everything she's written) and was very much looking forward to her latest. Now, this may be unfair, given that I read Time's Legacy right after finishing Pillars of the Earth and World Without End by Ken Follett - an almost impossible act to follow. Nonetheless, I can't help feeling this novel would have been a disappointment in any event.
I agree with another negative review on Amazon, where the reviewer comments that Erskine seems to be simply retelling the same story time after time, with new names for her characters. I would add that the characters in this book are also extremely one-dimensional. The central protagonist, Abi, simply doesn't ring true as a vicar on any level and it was hard to empathise with her at all. Most importantly, the portrayal of Jesus himself, surely an opportunity to create a truly memorable character, is a dismal failure. Throughout the novel, I couldn't help thinking this was a very good idea for a book, simply thrown away by rather lazy, sloppy writing. This is especially evident in the dialogue, which is almost unbearably wooden and stilted (whether this is the result of poor writing or poor editing, or a combination of the two, is hard to say).
I have not entirely lost faith in Erksine, but my advice to her would be to try something different next time and to be aware that reader loyalty has to be earned afresh with each novel.
Hmmmm. I, like others, have enjoyed Barbara Erskine's books over the years; peaking in my opinion with Midnight is a Lonely Place.
This book isn't as bad as the Warrior's Princess which I thought was quite weak. The story in this one is better, but I felt it was all a little rushed. The relationship as such between Kier and Abi after a seemingly short time, seemed to result in Kier being obsessed with her without really explaining why. He saw her in the church surrounded by spirits and immediately thought he had to save her and she him, but it seemed lame and slightly implausible. Once again as in Warrior's Princess, the central character simply sat in the garden or her room or at a table and was suddenly seeing the parallel story. In her earlier books, as I've mentioned before, the connection between past and present was believable - the characters saw ghosts or felt a connection with where they were; the characters in later stories seem a shoo-in to tell the historical part of the story which is obviously the part Ms Erskine loves, and is admittedly well researched. I did quite like the story in this one and the Jesus connection was interesting and quite engaging, but I've never really had a problem with the historical side of these books; it's the current day stories I think are a little weak.
I also agree with other reviewers that the format is becoming too similar in each book. A central, beautiful, troubled heroin, a man who appears to hate her, a man who's ultimately in love with her and a rash of 'experts' to help out. It is becoming stale.
It's a shame, but I really think she perhaps needs to find another angle, or future books are simply not going to be worth reading.
This is the first book by Barbara Erskine I've encountered, so I can't make comparisons with her other work. Part supernatural thriller, part historical romance, it deals with Abi, a young woman priest,and what happens when her Anglican training comes into conflict with her natural psychic abilities and the patriarchy of the old-style church establishment. Posted as a curate to an urban parish, she swiftly falls foul of the vicar Kier, a modernist reformer whose outward pragmatism hides an inner self teeming with fear and paranoia. Sent on retreat to the Somerset countryside near Glastonbury, she starts to see ghosts - a cast of characters which belong to another, pre-Christian age. She finds friends and allies both inside and outside the Church - but the conflicted Kier, bent on saving her from herself, has other ideas. And in the Romano-British society she watches in her dreams and visions, another young woman - a druid priestess called Mora - is in terrible danger.
It's a page-turner of a tale, and its themes - whether Christianity can ever be compatible with paganism, the ways in which men and women misinterpret each other's perceptions, whether or not Christ really did walk this green and pleasant land - are potentially fascinating. The problem with the story is in its telling. Barbara Erskine is plainly a good researcher with a background in history, but she is no poet. Some of her descriptions are clunky - but no more so than that of the current master of the mystical thriller, Dan Brown. That doesn't matter so much as the structure, which is unwieldy and a little overwrought. The book is overlong and events are often smothered in preamble. The Druids spend too much time paddling dugout canoes around their watery landscape and there are repetitive episodes which become tiresome; I lost count of the number of times Kier pursued poor Abi to her lair to rage incoherently about witchcraft and demons, only to retire muttering curses having been seen off by her gallant companions. There are one or two expendable characters, too: we could easily have dispensed with Greg the exorcist, who felt like an afterthought - or with Athena, the disillusioned hippy, who comes across too much like one of the walking Glastonbury clichés she derides. Some other characters, like Abi's father or Kier's hapless fiancée, seem to exist purely as one-dimensional plot devices.
Nevertheless, the novel has strongly numinous elements and is thought-provoking as well as page-turning. Those who regret its preoccupation with Christian themes as well as purely supernatural ones are missing out on the possibilities posed by throwing the two together in an uneasy partnership - much like the alliance between Abi and the charismatic pagan Justin, or Mora and the mysterious Jewish healer Yeshua. Sadly, some of those possibilities are also missed by Barbara Erskine herself, and I think that ultimately this could have been a better, and braver novel than it is.
I enjoyed this latest offering from Barbara Erskine. It was definitely a page-turner. In the novel she tackles contemporary issues such as attitudes towards female clergy, paganism and "alternative" approaches to healthcare (specifically healing).
Abi, the curate in question, is also a trained NFSH healer. She sees offering healing as part of her ministry. Her priest boss thinks she is dabbling in the "dark arts" and needs him to `save' her immortal soul. Interwoven with this modern story is a story of some of Jesus' (`Yeshua' in this novel) `missing years' as a young man. Barbara Erskine shows him as spending time learning the ways of the druids near Glastonbury with a woman herbalist called Mora. They have a very close relationship and it is clearly hard for them when they part - especially Mora. In turn Yeshua teaches her about his one God and how to heal in his name.
Back to the modern story....Barbara Erskine raises some interesting questions about how some women clergy might have a different approach to their priestly role incorporating a desire to heal and provide comfort to those who are sick or troubled. This has nothing to do with the "dark arts", but it is also interesting to note that many modern-day (non-clergy) healers are women and are still seen by some almost as "witches".
There is much more than this but I don't want to spoil it for readers, suffice to say there is a lot going on and there is a nice twist at the end. I would still only give it 3 to 4 stars though as I felt that there was a lot more that could have been said regarding Christianity and paganism, and the debate about women clergy. I would recommend it as a good holiday or bedtime read probably appealing to fans of Dan Brown, though it is different to his style. She was a historian and the historic detail is well-researched, and the book is well-written."
I have never read any of Barbara Erskines books before so this came as a pleasant surprise and I liked it so much, I now have a new favourite author and will start collecting all of her books as and when.
Abi a young Priest in the Church of England has just resigned her job as Curate to the manipulative Kier and whilst he is under investigation by the Bishop, he sends Abi on a retreat to some friends of his. This is where she first encounters ghosts from the very distant past. The owners of the house, well the wife (Cal) at least, has seen them before but it appears that Abi has the ability with the aid of a mysterious crystal given to her by her Mother to not only see them but communicate and watch their life stories unfold as well.
This is where the story starts to get really interesting although whether some parts are true or not is a moot point. Maybe the Nazarene did indeed come to our shores, who can gainsay? Anyhow, it would seem that there has been unfinished business in the deep past and it is Abi's destiny to lay things to rest or is it entirely her burden.............another person re-appears in her life, one she never wanted to see again but even though he is terrified of the supernatural it seems as though it is his karma to help.
The novel is set in and around Glastonbury and the descriptions of the Tor and all the ancient sites around the town are such that it has made me wish to visit that town sometime soon.
This book gripped me right from page 1 to the very end, the storyline flowed smoothly and the story itself was so well thought out that I now indeed to buy all of this authors previous novels.
Brilliant and highly recommended.
Whilst I may have skipped ahead having just read Barbara's first novel, I was keen to see how she had developed as a writer so jumped in on the latest release, Time's Legacy which is Barbara's Eleventh full length title. What unfurl within are, from what other fans I've spoken to have said, typical Erskine trademarks of lovingly crafted characters, solid plotlines and above all else a well-tuned sense of pace that works beautifully with the authors style.
Add to this great timing, some intriguing concepts and dialogue which when backed with time travel and dual plotlines which made this a book that was a sheer delight to read and one to recommend to fans of Diana Gabaldon (although let's face it you probably already know about her work if you're reading this.) Finally, add to the mix a wonderful sense of fulfilment upon completion and you may well feel that it's a going to be a long wait for the next title by Barbara.