When Danielle from Sourcebooks announced her book club around the upcoming release of Edith Pargeter’s four novels about the first true Prince of Wales in one single edition, I jumped at the chance to take part of the four month discussion and to host one of the monthly discussions. Given recent events, this might not have been the best decision I could have made. Please keep my overall attitude about books in mind when reading what I have to say about Sunrise in the West, the first book in The Brothers of Gwynwedd quartet. While some of my reservations would have been the same regardless, I know that my state of mind was a factor.
Sunrise in the West begins with the struggle between Llewelyn the Great’s two sons – the eldest illegitimate while the younger is born of marriage. They are fighting over who would take their father’s place. This fight continues into the next generation. Their fight against each other and England is narrated by Samson, the loyal servant to Llewelyn the younger.
I genuinely liked Samson, the narrator. He is an honest, moral, and noble man. He took the cards that were dealt to him and played them to the best of his ability. The story of his birth and early life were interesting, but it seemed that they were told at a distance. In fact, much of his narration felt that way. It was as if he didn’t want anyone to get close to him at all. Here he was in the middle of what must have been an exciting period in Welsh history and he discussed it almost clinically. I am not sure if the author’s lengthy and rather passive sentences were the cause of this or simply exacerbated it. Regardless, this lack of emotional involvement on Samson’s part made much of the novel feel as though nothing was happening when in reality the world was changing all around him.
When Samson became emotionally engaged there were flashes of the story that became compelling and easily readable. As much as I hate to say that it took the advent of a love interest to catch my full attention, Cristin did just that. I wished that the whole book could have been more like that chapter.
Overall, I found reading this first installment somewhat trying due to the author’s writing style. As such, I ended up reading a chapter or less each night. Sunrise in the West is clearly fiction, but it often read like a textbook. I cannot say that I didn’t find the overall story interesting because I did. Now that I’ve had some experience with Pargeter’s writing, I’m hoping that the upcoming installments will be more enjoyable to read.
If you are interested in finding out more about the book or see what others think, there is going to be an online chat about each section of the quartet hosted at a different blog. The discussion of Sunrise in the West will be hosted by Amy at Passages to the Past on Monday night, May 24 at 7pm EST. You can alsocheck out what other people in Sourcebook’s summer book club had to say about their experiences of reading this part of the book.