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THE BATTLE OF ARGINUSAE :
VICTORY AT SEA AND ITS TRAGIC AFTERMATH IN THE FINAL YEARS OF THE PELOPONNESIAN WAR
By Debra Hamel


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KILLING ERATOSTHENES:
A TRUE CRIME STORY
FROM ANCIENT ATHENS
By Debra Hamel


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READING HERODOTUS:
A GUIDED TOUR THROUGH THE WILD BOARS, DANCING SUITORS, AND CRAZY TYRANTS OF THE HISTORY
By Debra Hamel


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THE MUTILATION OF THE HERMS:
UNPACKING AN ANCIENT MYSTERY
By Debra Hamel


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TRYING NEAIRA:
THE TRUE STORY OF A COURTESAN'S SCANDALOUS LIFE IN ANCIENT GREECE
By Debra Hamel


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PRISONERS OF THE PELOPONNESIAN WAR
By Debra Hamel


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SOCRATES AT WAR:
THE MILITARY HEROICS OF AN ICONIC INTELLECTUAL
By Debra Hamel


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ANCIENT GREEKS IN DRAG:
THE LIBERATION OF THEBES AND OTHER ACTS OF HEROIC TRANSVESTISM
By Debra Hamel


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IT WAS A DARK AND STORMY TWEET:
FIVE HUNDRED 1ST LINES IN 140 CHARACTERS OR LESS
By Debra Hamel


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Authors & publishers:
I've decided to stop accepting review copies. The downside of getting buried in free books is that reading increasingly becomes an obligatory act. After some seven years of blogging books, it's time for me to return to the simple pleasure of reading only the books I want to read, when I want to read them. The blog, however, will continue, and if you've got a good first line to share for TwitterLit please do so here.



  
From a random review:

  

« Black, Benjamin: Elegy for April | Main | Goldberg, Lee: Mr. Monk On the Road »

Dudman, Clare: A Place of Meadows and Tall Trees

  

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Seren, 276 pages
1st published: 2010
5 stars

Note: Amazon affiliate: Links pointing to Amazon contain my affiliate ID. Sales resulting from clicks on those links will earn me a percentage of the purchase price.

DISCLAIMER: The author is a friend of mine, so you may worry that my praise of her book is due to bias, whether conscious or unconscious. The latter may be the case, of course, but I'd invite you to read her book yourself to see if my high opinion is justified. I can only repeat the conversation I had with my eight-year-old daughter the other day:

"This is Clare's book. She's a really, really good writer."
"Then why does she talk to you?"

I think it's because I'm lucky.

-----

It was clear to Silas, at least, from the start: the New Wales they'd been promised in Patagonia was a fiction. The other colonists were more apt to be persuaded by their charismatic leader's claims, whatever the evidence of their own eyes. Edwyn Lloyd promised them lush meadows and tall trees, a future for their families and for Welsh culture in South America. What they got was a desert.

Clare Dudman's 2010 novel A Place of Meadows and Tall Trees tells the story of the Welsh colonization of Patagonia in the 19th century. Her work is fiction, but it's based on real-life events, and several of her characters are fleshed out from what little is known of the early settlers. Dudman's focus is on Silas James and his wife Megan, who endure more as a result of their emigration than most of the colonists. Their story is in fact almost unendurably sad, so that one wants to tell the author to stop heaping sorrows on these poor people, but it's not her fault: their tragedies were in fact suffered by their real-life counterparts, Aaron and Rachel Jenkins, who sailed to Patagonia with the first group of settlers in 1865.

The villain of Dudman's story is Edwyn Lloyd, who holds sway over the colonists longer than he should because of his fiery oratory. He's a man with a vision and, it seems, limited conscience, a snake whose arrival on the scene usually signals further trouble. But one of the best moments for me in the book is about 40 pages from the end, when Edwyn for once stands out as a voice of reason and we see at once how complex his character and his relationship with Silas are.

An important part of the colonists' experience in Patagonia relates to the local Indian tribes, nomads who follow the migration of the llama-like guanaco. Part of Dudman's story is told from the point of view of an Indian shaman, Yeluc, who is the first native to make contact with the settlers. Through Yeluc we see that the experience of the soon-to-be-displaced Indians parallels to an extent that of the Welsh, who have left their homes in part to preserve their culture in the face of suppression by the English.

A Place of Meadows and Tall Trees
is beautifully written and powerful. Also surprising: going into it I already knew more or less what it would be about, yet I was still caught off-guard repeatedly at how the author chose to tell the story. That it's a beautiful read, however, did not come as a surprise. I expected nothing less from the author of One Day the Ice Will Reveal All Its Dead (see my review).

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Comments

1.

This actually sounds really interesting. I love read books about other cultures. I think that I would definitely add this to my TBR list.

2.

Clare Dudman is lucky to have such a champion in you!

Would you consider this historical fiction, since it's based on *real* people, or more of a pure fiction, with the history as a springboard for the author's tale?

p.s. re: your daughter: kids really do say the darndest things, don't they?!

3.

Thanks, Dawn! Well, Clare deserves to have a much larger readership. I'd say this is definitely historical fiction--though I hadn't thought much about the distinction between the two before, to tell you the truth.




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About the blogger: Debra is the mother of two preternaturally attractive girls and the author of a number of books about ancient Greece, including Trying Neaira: The True Story of a Courtesan's Scandalous Life in Ancient Greece. She writes and blogs from her subterranean lair in North Haven, CT. Read more.

  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  






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Book-blog.com by Debra Hamel is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution - Noncommercial - No Derivative Works 3.0 License.