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A Swarming of Bees by [Tomlinson, Theresa]
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A Swarming of Bees Kindle Edition

4.2 out of 5 stars 198 customer reviews

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Length: 292 pages Word Wise: Enabled Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
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Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 2514 KB
  • Print Length: 292 pages
  • Publisher: Acorn Digital Press (14 Dec. 2013)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00AN8D94I
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars 198 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #30,005 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I really enjoyed this book. It's a well-researched and entertainingly written story set at an especially interesting period in history - the time of the famous Whitby synod. The characters, some of whom are historical figures, are sympathetically portrayed and the plot is both imaginative and plausible. The political and religious turmoil of the synod coincides with an outbreak of plague, and it's all seen through the eyes of Fridgyth, the herb-wife, who, while working in a Christian monastery/nunnery, is still a believer in the old gods. And as a poet it's lovely to hear the words of Caedmon, said to be the first English poet, shared with a wider audience. I'll be watching for more work from this author.
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I really liked 'A Swarming of Bees', by Theresa Tomlinson, and have no hesitation in awarding five stars. The subject matter, the presentation, the writing style: all of this came together just right for my taste. And it had a couple of maps, which always please me. These help the reader become oriented in the community of Whitby, called here by the Old English name of Streonshalh. For those who are not familiar with English geography, Whitby is on the east coast, in the modern county of Yorkshire, looking across the North Sea towards Scandinavia. Somewhat later than this story, it would be part of the Viking-dominated region called the Danelaw (as in The Bone Thief), but at this time it was in Northumbria, a large swathe of land ruled from Bamburgh.

The historical setting is in the immediate aftermath of the Synod of Whitby, in 664AD. This was a key moment in British Christianity when the fledgling native church, which had been isolated from Europe after the collapse of the Roman empire, was brought back under the authority of Roman Catholicism.

Now, many today might regret the loss to the church of the Celtic flavour of faith that this caused, but at the time, church unity was considered more important than insisting on an opinion. Individual Christian leaders might (and did) regret the loss, and expressed it by withdrawal to isolated communities, but there was no church schism resulting from this event.

Anyway, 'A Swarming of Bees' has this event, and the resulting shakeup of church leadership, as part of the background. But for many of the individuals who are central, the choice is not between Roman and Celtic Christianity. Rather, it is between any sort of Christianity and their continuing allegiance to the older beliefs.
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This is not my usual genre but I am so glad I opted to read this book, it paints a picture of a simpler and more gentle way of life and I found the book itself gently draws you in and keeps your interest. The characters and plot are believable and well written and it is easy to feel that you know the main characters and can relate to them and are able to easily visualise where they live and their daily routines. Beautifully written and a pleasurable read. Interestingly, whilst the plot is very good and was the reason I chose to purchase the book, as I enjoy thrillers and 'whodunnits' I enjoyed it more for the characters created and the journey back in time. I would happily read further books based on Fridgyth the herb wife.
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I liked this book a lot. I am a fan of Ellis Peters' Cadfael series and, whilst being completely original, A Swarming of Bees evokes a pleasant feeling of familiarity. The Herb Wife, Fridgyth, precedes Brother Cadfael by a good 600 years, and a feeling of her time comes through clearly. The research required to paint such a clear picture of the period is evident in the detail and colour, and it makes for a very absorbing read.
I recommend this book highly.
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This story resonated with me as I went to school near Whitby and often visited the Abbey. The story is set at the time of the conventions which were called to settle the dating of Easter and thus establishing the dominance of the Church of Rome. The author has created authentic characters who represent the various religious traditions which were still being practiced, the simpler Celtic church practices, the Roman clergy and the local people who still call on the Old Gods hailing back to Norse lore. Mixed into this are the various royal houses whose allegiance to Christianity are more political than religious. Fridgyth, the half-pagan herb-wife is a close friend to Hilda who chooses to ignore Fridgyth's other allegiances whilst accepting the good that comes from her care of the local people. This friendship is tested when deaths occur within the Abbey precincts whilst royalty is still in attendance and Fridgyth ignores Hilda's instructions to leave well alone. All the characters are well developed, and Fridgyth in particular is the local character we would all love to chinwag with. If you like history brought to life then you will thoroughly enjoy this well-written, absorbing and amusing story.
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A good read if you like north Yorkshire, especially the Whitby area, and you are interested in early history of the church and the Synod of Whitby. . The writer weaves a good story around the effects of the Synod and her imagination is attractive in the development of the history of the time.
It is an easy read and once started you want to read it through and enjoy it.
David Bolton:
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