Books by Edith Pargeter

A MEANS OF GRACE by Edith Pargeter
Released: Dec. 1, 1995

Another worthwhile revival (The Heaven Tree Trilogy, 1993) of an out-of-print Pargeter novel (a.k.a. mystery writer Ellis Peters) appearing here for the first time. Published in 1956 in England, this is a lowering, often eloquent, romantically heroic tale of lovers caught in the icy constrictions of the Cold War. Concert soprano Emmy Marryat, despite warnings, books a brief tour in a Baltic country (unnamed) that's in the turbulent process of coalescing as a stable Communist state. Emmy has yearned to see her dear friends the Ivanescus, whom she first met during the war: the nurturing mother and modest father (owner of a small factory); beautiful Wanda, enthusiastic supporter of the new State (including its policy of nationalizing factories like her father's); Milo, a buoyant, cheerful student; and Lubov, grave and tender, a university teacher with whom Emmy will find a lasting love. The country's changes accelerate, but in the aftermath of war there's still a ``chilling breath of tragedy unredeemed, uncompensated . . . blowing across the suave modern highway.'' Meanwhile, Milo's close friend Yuri, frantic with restrictions, successfully escapes to the West, and Emmy—though she, like the Ivanescus, disapproves of his flight—nevertheless answers his pathetic, devastated need. Emmy will not join the anti-Communist herd at home, however, and she offers Yuri compassion rather than love. Yuri takes his revenge—and Lubov faces prison. Together (Emmy visits the country once more), the lovers deliberate as they struggle for wholeness in a ``mutilated world.'' Through them the author examines the claims of nationalism, as opposed to nationality, and offers a plea to look beyond governments to the needs and ways that unite us all. The verbiage sinks into the ponderous now and then, and characters occasionally become mouthpieces, but, still, there's much here that's touching and memorable. Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 13, 1993

A robust and majestically peopled and paced medieval trilogy— a stormy tale of thunderous dark passions and spiritual triumphs— in a one-volume collection of two hitherto-out-of-print novels and one never-before published here: from the author, as Ellis Peters, of the hugely popular Brother Cadfael mysteries. The Heaven Tree (1960) begins the story of stone mason Harry Talvace, who is brought to ``Parfois,'' in Shrewsbury, by Ralf Isambard, to create a church. In the reign of King John, however, English/Welsh conflicts heat, and Isambard, Lord of Parfois, orders Harry horribly killed for treason. Meanwhile, Isambard's mistress, Benedetta, refusing marriage, is bound to the corpse to perish but narrowly escapes death. Then, in The Green Branch (1962), young Harry, son of the craftsman—who had finished his church in chains- -matches wits with the Lord of Parfois, awaiting revenge. Finally, in The Scarlet Seed—in its first US appearance—all the old horrors and griefs, rages and revenges, will shrivel and dissipate. The Lord Isambard (tall, lean, ``a dark recollection of beauty'') reveals a heart in agony and a painful growing love of his ``son,'' young Harry. Eventually, while war rages betwen the English and Welsh, old man Isambard and Benedetta will die magnificently, Aida- fashion, in the boarded-up church; and young Harry will find a bride, see war as both an Englishman and Welshman, witness the end of Parfois—and of hatred—and know that his father's church, now in fragments, ``will wear out the stone. Eyes that have once seen it see all things differently thereafter.'' Pargeter's work is remarkable for its consistent high seriousness, and, here, once again, she manages to give appropriate shading to both the barbarous and spiritual in the medieval mind. These are mighty beings and Pargeter gives them mighty deaths and revelations. Occasionally the prose may wobble on the edge of purple, but there's always a quick-step recovery into Pargeter's usual supple and solemnly lyrical narration. A quite grand affair. Read full book review >