by Gareth Jones ‧ RELEASE DATE: Oct. 6, 1980
A gusty, good-natured tale set in mid-18th-century rural Wales--starring Gruffyd, a giant adventurer who generally manages to land on his feet, Flash-man-fashion, until he's (unfortunately) sobered and brought to bay by a grim series of events. At the start Gruffyd returns to his valley, with his son Iolo, to reclaim what he believes is his--lands deeded to his family by a dead Lord. His obstacles: the shaky local tyrant, John Vaughan, and the peasants--a starved, glowering, nasty lot who are set to mangle Gruffyd when the village conjurer identifies him as the Devil (Iolo is supposedly his infernal assistant.) But Gruffyd stumbles onto a spot of luck (by chance he cures cattle after torching the conjurer into the river), and he's honored by the peasants with the now-vacant conjurer's post. So, during the next seven years, Gruffyd not only brings Vaughan into line, liberating the villagers from exploitation, but he also institutes some economic reforms stressing cooperation and labor pools. Plus: he takes in besotted, beautiful Madlen and sleeps with her sister Rhiannon (wife of a dour Calvinist preacher whom Gruffyd outwits). Then, however, Gruffyd will be betrayed by son Iolo--who'll go astray until a nick-of-time return: the villagers, their trust in Gruffyd gone sour, must be prevented from shredding their conjurer into eternity. Finally, all is sneakily resolved when Gruffyd gives Madlen to Vaughan for a wife, so that Gruffyd's son by Madlen (supposedly Vaughan's) will inherit the valley. . . while Rhiannon, pregnant, smilingly keeps pace with her sister by also furnishing heirs to Gruffyd through the auspices of her unwitting husband. When not mulling over Gruffyd's guilts and the treacherous primitive ethos of the village, a non-taxing and generally entertaining rural romp with the usual rakes, fools, and frolics.
Pub Date: Oct. 6, 1980
Page Count: -
Publisher: Farrar, Straus & Giroux
Review Posted Online: N/A
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1980
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