Imatge de l'autor

Barbara Erskine

Autor/a de Lady of Hay

33+ obres 4,511 Membres 131 Ressenyes 31 preferits

Sobre l'autor

Obres de Barbara Erskine

Lady of Hay (1986) 819 exemplars
Whispers in the Sand (2000) 363 exemplars
Kingdom of Shadows (1988) 352 exemplars
House of Echoes (1996) 333 exemplars
Midnight is a Lonely Place (1994) 307 exemplars
Child of the Phoenix (1992) 306 exemplars
Hiding from the Light (2002) 264 exemplars
On the Edge of Darkness (1998) 248 exemplars
Daughters of Fire (2006) 236 exemplars
The Warrior's Princess (2008) 192 exemplars
Time's Legacy (2010) 175 exemplars
Sands of Time (2003) 139 exemplars
River of Destiny (2012) 129 exemplars
Sleeper's Castle (2016) 125 exemplars
The Darkest Hour (2014) 113 exemplars
The Ghost Tree (2018) 103 exemplars
Encounters (1990) 102 exemplars
Distant Voices (1996) 101 exemplars
The Dream Weavers (2021) 61 exemplars
Lady of Hay, vol. 1 (1986) 5 exemplars
Lady of Hay, vol. 2 (1986) 5 exemplars
Strom duchů (2019) 2 exemplars
Das Gesicht im Fenster. (1999) 2 exemplars
Kingdom of Shadows, vol. 2 (1988) 2 exemplars
Kingdom of Shadows, vol. 1 (1988) 2 exemplars
2001 1 exemplars
L'ombra di una voce (1995) 1 exemplars
Les Larmes d'Isis (2001) 1 exemplars
L' autre vie de Lady H (1986) 1 exemplars
Dědictví minulosti (2019) 1 exemplars

Obres associades


Coneixement comú

Data de naixement
England, UK
Lloc de naixement
Nottingham, Nottinghamshire, England, UK
Llocs de residència
Suffolk, England, UK
North Essex, England, UK
Hay-on-Wye, Powys, Wales, UK
University of Edinburgh (BA|History)
historical novelist
Hope-Lewis, Michael (husband)
Rose, Nigel (father)
Blake Friedmann Literary Agency
Biografia breu
Barbara Erskine says: I studied Scottish history at Edinburgh University and it was there that I began (and temporarily abandoned) my first attempt at a novel – the story which would one day become Kingdom of Shadows. Later while I worked for an educational publisher and then as a freelance researcher for books on art and history I began to sell short stories and to dream about becoming a full-time writer with a handful of historical Mills & Boons – a wonderful training in professionalism and in coming to terms with the horror of the deadline. At the same time while I was living in the Black Mountains near Hay-on-Wye in the Welsh Border March I started working on the research for Lady of Hay, at first as a part-time hobby and a barely formed idea, then with more and more urgency. Exactly 10 years after I first roughed out the story line, the book was finally published. That same year I found myself to my amazement and total terror talking about it on prime time TV and later doing a coast to coast tour of the USA. What had my dreams got me into.



Sci-fi book that takes place in UK or Ireland a Name that Book (març 2021)
fiction probably at least 15 years old a Name that Book (octubre 2010)


After reading the author's first novel I debated whether to bother with this one, also on my shelves as a charity shop acquisition. I believe it is her second novel and broadly follows the same narrative split of a contemporary narrative (set in the 1980s when the book was published) and a medieval past which the female protagonist is drawn into. However, this novel is not nearly as objectionable as 'Lady of Hay' because at least there is no suggestion that women enjoy being knocked about or raped etc as there was in that book, despite there being some violence against the female protagonist.

Clare is the bored wife of a rich banker, Paul, who has been insider dealing, has lost money without telling her and is becoming increasingly desperate to get his hands on Clare's property, her beloved castle in Scotland Duncairn (a castle which is fictional as made clear in the author's afterword). He lies to her about his own infertility, saying the doctor told him she was the one who can't have children. After being unable to contact the doctor she eventually gives up trying, which I found rather unconvincing given her later discoveries that he is a compulsive liar. I also thought the doctor was negligent given that she should surely have been offered counselling, but that of course would lead to her discovery of the truth which has to happen late in the novel.

Paul's machinations become more extreme as the modern day storyline progresses. Meanwhile the meditation which Clare has been learning from her teacher Zak leads her to tap into the past life of Isobel, a woman of the nobility in 13th century Scotland and a contemporary of Robert the Bruce. Clare's family have a connection to Isobel, and her deceased great aunt from whom she inherited Duncairn, also had visitations from her. Quite a bit of the past storyline is based on actual history although the author's note at the end does inform us that the romance between Isobel and the eventual Scottish king is based upon English slanders of the time (both parties were married to other people).

As the story progresses, Clare becomes increasingly overpowered by Isobel's need to show her the past. Meanwhile Paul uses her preoccupation to pretend to all and sundry that she is mad or possessed. His brothers - who include a vicar and a Member of Parliament - are so gullible that they go along with this. Paul pretends that Zak is the leader of a cult and his brothers are persuaded that yoga and meditation are evil and that people who practice them will be sucked in by mind controlling cults. As far as they are concerned, Clare is performing black magic and Satanic rites. They seem capable of believing - despite the contradiction - that she is mad and that spirits actually exist and have possessed her. I found all this rather hard to take seriously. If they had followed up various plans to take her to psychiatrists I thought they would be the ones who ended up under scrutiny.

Only the women in the family, Paul's sister Emma, and the vicar's wife Chloe, are doubtful and put up any kind of defence on her behalf. Clare's mother is too much of a doormat to stand up against Archie, her second husband, who dislikes step-daughter Clare for no apparent reason and thinks she needs sorting out by her husband. Parts of this storyline became quite risible with the vicar brother resorting to exorcism. Clare's mother and stepfather meanwhile think it is OK to keep her cooped up in their house at one point and to enforce a reconcilliation between the warring parties. They refused to believe anything she says about what he had been doing to try to trick or force her to sell the castle and adjacent lands.

One good point to the book is that although there is eventually a male romantic lead, Neil, he and Clare at first dislike each other. He is an organiser for an environmental group who are trying to save Duncairn and its environs from the oil interest to whom Paul plans to sell the property. There is a minor subplot involving him and his current girlfriend who becomes very vindictive when she senses the attraction between Neil and Clare, and Neil does not play a major role nor does Clare constantly moon over him. This was a nice contrast to the 'Lady of Hay' where the romantic male lead was an awful character and the female lead loved him despite his constant abuse of her: co-dependency basically.

The main problem with the novel is that the modern day part is dragged out, well beyond the point where it should be resolved. There are various non-incidents to spice it up, such as a mini car crash where Clare has to be towed out of a field by an oblidging farmer. The lengths Paul goes to and the way in which his brothers and Archie just brush off what he is doing becomes increasingly unbelievable. Even when he runs off with a loaded gun, Archie does not report him to the police. Clare herself is a very pathetic character with little ability to resist what is happening to her and a passive onlooker to Isobel's story. She sometimes contributes to the situation where Paul's brothers gullibly believe she is a Satanist or witch and is quite ineffectual at times in expressing herself. I found her rather a frustrating character and much preferred Emma.

As with 'Lady of Hay' the story set in the past would have made a fairly decent historical romance novel in its own right, but presumably there was still the issue I noted in the review of that book where publishers were uncomfortable publishing straight historicals in their stubborn belief that there was no market for such. It is a powerful tale with great descriptions and a strong narrative drive involving the political struggles between England and Scotland, with the romance between Isobel and Robert set against that. A lot of great historical detail is worked into the narrative. The only mistake that stood out to me was the mention of napkins used on laps - as napkins were draped over the shoulder for the diner to wipe their fingers on during Tudor times I don't think they would have been used on laps in the 13th century. But the evocation of the lifestyle of the well off, the religious beliefs, the cruelty and barbarism of punishments and the position of women were all well evoked. As was the beauty but also starkness and coldness of the Scottish landscape especially in autumn and winter.

In conclusion, I liked this book more than I expected although the last hundred or so pages were quite a slog. I did guess the twist that Paul's attempt to force Clare into signing a power of attorney would fail as, given her confused state due to his mistreatment, she would have signed Isobel's name. I should point out that this book may upset anyone who doesn't like stories where animals, particularly dogs, meet a sad fate.

Given that this book is rather a mixed bag, with the historical material being far superior to the contemporary framework, it balances out for me as a 3 star read.
… (més)
kitsune_reader | Hi ha 10 ressenyes més | Nov 23, 2023 |
This was the last of this author's works on my shelves and promised to be an easier read, being a collection of short stories. They span a couple of decades in her career, judging by the foreword, and one story in particular, 'To Adam a Son', first published in the 1970s, deserved consignment to oblivion in my opinion as it returned to the 'Lady of Hay' idea of a woman loving her rapist even though he leaves her pregnant and returns years later wanting a wife to look after the child he has been "lumbered" with by the woman he married straight afterwards.

The quality of the stories in this collection are very uneven. Some seem unfinished such as the title story which sets up a situation but doesn't really deliver anything other than the usual haunted house cliches. I thought the better stories were those which did not deal with relationships between women and men but instead were told from a child's viewpoint, such as the little girl who is scared of a vicious cat that is a suitcase by day and lives on top of her wardrobe, or dealt with a young person setting out in life, such as the girl who is about to go for a music "interview" for a position of organist at a church. Those stories brought up the book's rating for me, so that it balanced out at a 3-star rating.
… (més)
kitsune_reader | Hi ha 3 ressenyes més | Nov 23, 2023 |
Have had this book on my shelves for a long time, having picked it up in a charity shop at some point. I knew it was a huge bestseller in the 1980s which I think launched the author's career. On the face of it, it is a 'timeslip' story which alternates constantly between the 12th century and 1980s England through the medium of the female protagonist, Joanna. Initially, she is hypnotised as part of an experiment in pastlife regression and proves very susceptible. Eventually she becomes so adept that she self-hypnotises even when she doesn't want to immerse herself in the life of her 12th century alter-ego Matilda.

I hadn't read a great deal of the book before I discovered that it must be the 1980s equivalent of Three Shades of Grey. There is a huge amount of sexual and other abuse of women in which the women are compliant, even at times slightly turned on, whether that is in the past or the present. Joanna remains in love with the chief male protagonist, Nick, even though he has raped her at least once - I lost track in the end - and sliced her arm up on a broken vase or whatever and all sorts of other abuse. He also 'loves' her despite his behaviour. His evil brother Sam (and why Sam has a longstanding hatred of Nick is never explained) hypnotises Nick to convince him he is the reincarnation of Prince, later King John, of Magna Carta fame. In history, John condemned Matilda to a terrible death and Sam tells him he must kill her again, seemingly as part of a plot to have Nick certified as dangerously insane. By a vast coincidence it seems that Nick really is the reincarnation of John. His first - very brutal - rape of Joanna occurs before he is hypnotised. In keeping with the twisted attitudes displayed in this book, it transpires that John fancied Matilda like mad despite also hating her, and in fact still "loves" her 800 years later.

Amazingly Sam is the reincarnation of Matilda's abusive husband. He also inflicts various abuse on Joanna under hypnosis, and tries to manipulate the historical story although there is some doubt thrown on whether such encounters were truly part of it - at one point, Joanna finds the tape of flute music he had used as a background while abusing her and reflects that it would be anachronistic for the period when Matilda lived. But in his twisted way, Sam it seems also 'loves' Joanna and is certainly obsessed with her and her previous incarnation. Likewise, the man with whom he identifies is an unfeeling brute. To stretch the reader's credulity further, there is yet a third man who is another character from Matilda's story. Weak and ineffectual, he is the reincarnation of the man whom she really loved in the 12th century. At least the sex she has with him is consensual, which makes a nice change.

As if all this wasn't bad enough, the writing standard is poor. Huge numbers of sentences begin with the present tense with the character doing something, then continue with a whole series of actions which they can't possibly carry out while still doing the first action. This is a tic of the author's that jumped out at me all the time and was really annoying. You can't, for example, start a sentence with "Parking the car ...." then have the character climb out and walk off somewhere else - they would be doing this while still parking the car. Or they are brushing their hair while taking clothes out of a wardrobe, getting dressed and walking downstairs. There were masses of such instances. And on just about every page set in the 1980s, the characters are making and/or drinking coffee. On the ones where they aren't, they are knocking back scotch. No one even drinks tea for a bit of variety - something the British were well known for at the time. The modern day characters were all cliches out of 1980s soap operas, especially the London based 'professional' ones who drive the main pivot of the action of the framing story. We are constantly told that Joanna is a no-nonsense hard-hitting journalist, while in reality she is a wimp who is so pathetic she doesn't even get her locks changed when her ex-boyfriend and his brother keep letting themselves into her apartment. The two people on the smallholding who try to help Joanna are more sympathetic, but have a tiny part in the story and are probably based on the main characters in BBC's "The Good Life" programme which was very popular at the time.

I read on to find out how Matilda comes to her grisly end - we had been told at the beginning about the tragedy affecting her and her eldest son - and to see if the book was really as awful as it initially seemed. The historical parts are much more interesting than the multiple 'love' triangle/bed hopping, 1980s framework, which has a lot of repetitive driving around, booking into pubs and bed and breakfast places, and visiting castles. By itself, the 12th century material could have worked as an historical novel. However, my recollection is that at the time publishers were not receptive to the genre. The only such novels available were library copies of Jean Plaidy, Dorothy Dunnett and other such writers, because publishers believed there was 'no market' for such a genre and created a self-fulfilling prophecy by not publishing it.

The historical genre finally made a come-back thanks to the pioneering efforts of Edith Pargeter under the name "Ellis Peters" - her Cadfael murder mysteries set in medieval times were hugely popular, helped by the very good TV series, and created a whole subgenre of historical crime, with more and more publishers rushing to get onto the bandwaggon. I think maybe they still didn't think there was a market for actual historical or historical romance novels when 'Lady of Hay' was published but thought they would try something hybrid like this, and so it found an audience among a readership crying out for new historical fiction. That would account for its huge success at the time. Unfortunately there is just too much misogyny for the modern reader to overlook. So I can only give it a one star rating, and it earns that mainly on the slightly more interesting material about Matilda and a quite attractive cover.
… (més)
kitsune_reader | Hi ha 30 ressenyes més | Nov 23, 2023 |
Potentially an interesting subject and started off quite promising, but couldn't believe the initially sympathetic Wiccan character's transformation into out and out psycho.
kitsune_reader | Hi ha 1 ressenya més | Nov 23, 2023 |



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