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17
4.4 out of 5 stars
The Maid of Buttermere
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
This book was first published in 1987 but, unlike many novels written 20 years ago, it is not diminished in the slightest by the passage of time.
I was recommended to read this by my mother and I'm very glad I did. I just wish I was on holiday in the Lake District whilst I was reading it - but that's no reason to put the book to one side until you do go to the Lakes. I'm sure that a physical link to the land would benefit the reader substantially but it isn't essential.
I don't want to give anything about the story away except that it's a love story based in the 19th Century located in the Lake District.
I suggest you forget what you read on the dust jacket if you can and don't read any other reviews until you've read the book.
It is slightly difficult to read because Melvyn only let us have the back-story on a "need to know" basis but that kept me guessing and I enjoyed it in a perverse kind of way. If you've already read all the reviews and the dust jacket the mystery is lessened as is the experience.
I found it an excellent book in that the character of the protagonist was complex and multi-dimensional. He was a product of his life - neither fully good nor fully bad. A real person, in fact.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on 7 September 2009
A must read book.
Lord Bragg weaves a sensative and absorbing novel arround the events of the late 18th century concerning a publicans daughter and shepherdess of such renowned beauty that she became a tourist attraction. A con-man sets eyes on her and instantly drops his plans, in an advance stage of preparation, to marry a rich heiress, and bigamously weds the fair maid of Buttermere.
The con-man is later hanged for his crimes.
Lord Bragg creates a facinating schizophrenic character for the villain of the book for whome, in spite of his many sins, one end up with feeling of sympathy.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on 3 July 2009
I found this a really rich, beguiling and beautifully written novel. The essential story, of John Hatfield's web of deceit and his relationship with Mary Robinson, would be a strong one even without the context of the setting and period, and I was surprised by the dark, tragic ending which gave the piece added gravitas. The fact that it is a true story and one commented on by such eminent writers as Coleridge adds hugely to its appeal.

Gradually revealing more about Hatfield through the course of the story gives a great sense of mystery and leads us to an emotional, tragic ending. There are some good plot twists along the way and the novel is peopled by great characters who are vivid and give a great sense of the time and place.

As well as using the Lake District as its backdrop the novel also uses it for social comment, giving the piece a great richness. Observations on the area as an industrial one provides an interesting flip side to the image of the Lake District (both at that time and now) as a place of tranquillity and natural beauty unspoilt by human hands.

A pretty substantial read but defintely worth it.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 14 May 2009
This book is excellent.Set in the Lakedistrict in the 18th century based on a true story...compulsive reading captures the atmosphere of the lakes at that time...when Wordsworth and Coleridge were travelling around that area.The sort of book you can't put down read it in 3 days.
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24 of 28 people found the following review helpful
I loved reading The Maid of Buttermere. Coming from the area in which the story is set made the detailed descriptions more vivid.
The story is an adventure with an added romance, which is slow to unfold. Mr Bragg cleverly introduces characters into the melting pot, whose importance in the tale only becomes apparent near the conclusion.
A perfect draw for tourists to the beautiful tranquility of Buttermere, where the Fish Hotel which centres in the story still exists.
The book also includes action set in the Morecambe Bay Sands, Keswick, Carlisle and Gretna Green, and jumps to more southern cities too.
It was my introduction to Bragg, and led me to read more of his work.
An admirable Cumbrian certainly, and a memorable book.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 4 January 2013
The book is an enjoyable read, but the Kindle edition seems to have an irritating number of spelling and punctuation errors; examples being "well" and "hell" for "we'll" and "he'll". Poor quality OCR, or whatever it is that is used to create digital books these days?
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
I came across the name of John Hatfield whilst doing some historical research online. Having discovered that he was executed in Carisle. The whole scenario was set in the Lake District where I am fortunate enough to live. All of the places & most of the people did exist (impossible to check everyone.) William Wordsworth featured her in his poem 'The Prelude.' He came with Samuel Taylor Coleridge to the Fish (her father's pub) to gaze at her beauty, as many men did. It was Coleridge who suspected that Hatfield was an imposter. Indeed he was, going under the name of Colonel Augustus Hope. Coleridge did in fact start the exposure, which led to the manhunt; and eventual execution of Hatfield.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 9 January 2014
Having recently read Credo by Melvyn Bragg, I thought this book might be a good read for me. I struggled with it right from the start but not sure why!! The story seemed a good one but I ended up missing hug chunks of the book. I did read the last chapter. Too much unnessesary detail for me.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on 17 September 2006
I love the way this book has come about. The author, Melvyn Bragg, has obviously done some historical research, and come across a very juicey tidbit, a scandal, covered in the newspapers of the time, involving a very flambuoyant character who is not what he claims to be, and a woman famous throughout the region for her good looks, known as the Beauty of Buttermere. He must have rubbed his hands in glee when he came across it! He has then taken what he has found, and spun it out into a really interesting, and at times gripping, novel.

Before reading this book, the impression I had of the author from his appearances on the television was of quite a shallow and superficial character. However, Bragg has obviously put a lot of himself into the book, and it is evident that he is far from being just a showman.

I would imagine the character John Hatfield is based to quite some extent on the author himself who, as i understand it, comes from humble origins but has, of course, risen to considerable heights. Maybe at times he has felt like an imposter in the same way that Hatfield plays at being a gentleman.

The character Hatfield, whilst unfortunate because of his pretence and show, is also very likeable because he knows his weaknesses, and underneath it all wants to do what is right. His motives are good, even if the way he goes about things eg by assuming a title which isn't his, is not.

Bragg has an impressive knowledge of social history, which he paints lightly onto the canvas, not letting it become a distraction in the way that some writers do. The reader doesn't continually get the impression he is trying to show off his knowledge. Instead, you genuinely feel you are experiencing the events in Cumbria and north Lancashire at the turn of the 19th century.

The book is of particular interest if you happen to live in these parts, as most of the action takes places in the area between Lancaster and Carlisle. I love the opening scene in which the protagonist rehearses his lines in Morecambe Bay. Living only two minutes' walk from the Bay myself I could picture this scene very vividly.

This is not quite a classic, but it is one of the best books by a contemporary author I have come across.
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on 23 October 2011
I picked this off the library shelf many years ago on spec as I normally read very little fiction - even fewer of the historical genre. But I was in for a treat on many levels - based on a true story and written by a master of language, with a powerful pull on the emotions - I was hooked and it stayed clearly in my memory. I have just bought a copy and reread it - after all these years it is still great story-telling and descriptive writing.

I'm just surprised is has not been adapted for the cinema. Now who would I cast in the leads.....?
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