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One would suppose that in covering, in one modest volume, the fortunes of one English family in one spot from 384 A.D. to 1975, there would have to be some skimping in character and ambience. One would be right. Even veteran Lofts has been hard put to it to linger long for appropriate mood and tone as these mini-tales about warfare, murder, ghosts, suicide, and miracles unwind. So, while tracing the artifacts of a family business--in this case, a wineshop that becomes an inn and pub--through the centuries has a certain fascination, the family itself becomes a blur of recurrent names and offspring. It all begins in 384 when Paulus, a wounded, retreating Roman, finds the terrified Angle slave, Gilda, hiding in a wineshop. They love, join the settling Angles, and years later, it is the matriarch Gilda who will convert and give the missionary Fergus the stables for a church. By 834 a tiny church has been built which will receive the body of the martyr St. Cerdic. Cerdic's executioner, the giant Dane Ingway, will marry into the clan (the Gildersons always seem to be ""at least two inches taller than other men""). In 1348 and 1540, in what is now the town of Mallow, deaths, persistent ghosts and miracles will take place in the family's inn, at the church and abbey (ruined under Henry VIII). 1620 and 1838 are marked in the Gilderson family by suicide, rape, and murder as well as a miserable marriage, plus hard times for the inn. 1725 is a time of growth with a ballroom and a secret society. And the 1897, 1939, and 1975 Gildersons are more routine saga material--with problems in intra-family relationships and finance. At the close, the nice family remnants, all set to sell the inn, change their minds as the last matriarch dies. . . . The never-failing attraction of old family roots and Lofts' clear-headed way with her enormous cast will probably carry this over with her fans, but it's really more a curiosity item than a grand, juicy read.

Pub Date: Oct. 17th, 1980
Publisher: Doubleday