A Memory of Lions Mass Market Paperback – 1 Jan 1983
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
The plot is unpredictable, believable, extraordinarily engaging and exciting. The setting is built round a reader from beginning to end in careful, yet interesting detail - including not just a wonderful sense of concrete place, but its history, and future. Godwin's research is palpable, but blessedly unobtrusive in service of its master: the story.
And what a story.
Never so little as "a romance" - yet possibly the most passionate book I have ever read. It is a war story, a tale of occupation, a fully-felt victor's quest, and an honorable retelling of the ways some people refuse to become truly vanquished. The ending, when we find ourselves reaching it, has been bought at a vividly grotesque price, and yet "A Memory of Lions" never feels sensationalistic. It never feels simplistic. And its power never dulls, reading after reading.
The plot had many twists and turns and towards the end the book and a few surprises are revealed that even I didn't see coming. The story tells what may have happened between many Saxons and Normans and their startling cultural differences that cannot help but play a major part in their lives.
Read this novel! If you haven't read anything by Parke Godwin you're really missing out on a major storytelling talent. All of his books are as good as this one including: Lord of Sunset, The Last Rainbow, Sherwood, Firelord, The Tower of Beowulf, Robin and the King, and Beloved Exile, just to name a few. Three of these are a trilogy and should be read in order, just check on Amazon.com to discover the correct order in which to read them in.
My biggest complaint was (beside the cover) the ending. Although it tied up all the loose ends, it seemed as if the author didn't know how else to explain it all the "why"'s. The ending makes sense at the time, but later as you think about it, you can find small little points that do not add up.
Or is it a devil? The story begins after the Conquest, after the Harrying of the North, as the de Neuville family rebuilds on the northern lands awarded them by King William. The Saxons may be conquered, but their customs, laws and mindset constantly clash with that of the Normans, and the Normans don't give a d*** about what the Saxons want.
De Neuville's daughter Gerlaine is attracted to Gurth, the illegitimate son of the former Saxon lord, but when their relationship is discovered Gurth receives a brutal punishment at the hands of Gerlaine's father. With tensions already high, the Norman violation of the Saxon's sacred "hearth right" brings on horrific consequences as the outraged Gurth demands wergild (man payment). Gerlaine holds to her love for Gurth until the punishments against her family become too dear and love changes to hatred and revenge.....
There's actually a whole lot more to it than that but you really do need to read it for yourself, I don't want to spoil it for you. Despite what the somewhat cheesy cover implies, this is not a romance novel - this is very dark story about the struggles between two completely disparate cultures. I really enjoyed Godwin's writing, it's very subtle and understated and you do have to pay attention or you'll end up backtracking. This was just a really great read with quite a surprise twist at the end and I am looking forward to more from this author. I understand he's written one on Harold Godwinsson as well as a series on Robin Hood.