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Posted December 20, 2007
I spent a happy few days in late October reading 'The Apple and the Thorn.' The book is about 100,000 words in length, and I read it in about four days, over one of the busiest weekends in my year ¿ which gives some measure of how much I enjoyed it. I really didn't want to put this down. It's a blend of myth and fiction, exploring some familiar ideas in rather unfamiliar ways. The difficulty with reviewing this book is not wanting to give too much away. In the first few chapters, the moments of realising who some of the protagonists are, were pleasures I would not want to deny to others. Learning about the characters and watching the way their relationship changes and grows is central to the book. So what can I say? 'The Apple and the Thorn' brings together both Pagan and Christian myths about Glastonbury. Set around the Roman invasions of Britain, at a time when Glastonbury was marsh, water and islands rather than dry land, its more akin to the mystic Avalon of King Arthur than modern geography. It's a moody setting, fraught with dangers and possibilities. The writing is rich, luscious and intensely sensual. It's also a story told entirely in the first person present tense, with two narrators. I found it easy to keep track of the narrators however, thanks to the differences in writing styles and voices. I think this is the first novel I've read entirely in the present tense, and it works surprisingly well, making the story immediate and the narratorial voices intense. Having read quite a lot of Emma Restall Orr's non-fiction, I found her fictional writing style entirely familiar, and very engaging. Her co-author ¿ Walter William Melnyk I hadn't encountered before, but his style compliments hers, and they pass the story back and forth between them to good effect. I cried over some of the scenes. I gaped at the computer a few times. I laughed in amusement when I realised who some of the characters were. And I've come away inspired, thinking about my own spiritual path, my own relationship both with the land and its stories. This Review Submitted by Brynneth Colvin.
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Posted May 14, 2009
Written by Pat Mead, Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids
Posted by WW Melnyk
Reviewed by Pat Mead
Is it a novel? Is it a theological treatise? Is it myth reworked? Well. yes, yes and yes. It's a bumblebee too. You know - theoretically the bee's body is too heavy for its wings, making it unable to fly. However, the bee doesn't know it's aerodynamically unsound, and it manages to fly very nicely, thank you. The weight of theology and philosophy in The Apple and the Thorn ought to keep it mired on the ground, but somehow it manages to fly right up there alongside the bumblebee. (And produces some fine honey too.)
The two main characters in the story are Joseph of Arimathea (called Eosaidh in the book), and Vivian, the Lady of the Lake. The narration moves from one to the other and begins as Eosaidh arrives in Avalon, fifteen years after his great-nephew was crucified in Jerusalem. Eosaidh settles on what is now Wearyall Hill, and meets his old friend Vivian once more. They seek to understand each other's spirituality, exploring their very different beliefs about the divine, about male and female, light and dark, the outer and the inner worlds, and the importance of the land itself. Often they misunderstand each other, but there is always liking and respect between them, and before long they have become lovers.
The peaceful idyll is shattered with the arrival of strangers who lay claim to twelve hides of Avalon's sacred land. They are converts to the new Christian cult, and they see the Lady and her people as sorceresses and demons. Hot on their heels are the pragmatic Romans who seek only to quell rebellion and seize the wealth and resources of the land. Eosaidh's loyalties are torn in many directions and the love that he and Vivian share is tested to the limit.
Reading The Apple and the Thorn was a delightful experience for me. As I neared the end, I read ever more slowly, wanting to postpone for as long as possible the moment of our separation. I knew how it would end, but the tears are still on my cheeks as I write.
The Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids