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Avalon by Anya Seton
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Avalon (1965)

by Anya Seton

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A historical novel based on events that occurred in the 10th Century in England, Iceland, and Greenland, Avalon did not live up to my expectations of Anya Seton. The plot of a bit plodding and fairly unsophisticated. However, I did enjoy getting a glimpse of this time period, which is not one that is encountered that often. I now have a better understanding of how the very important Norman conquest came to be and why the Normans came to sit on the throne of England.

The story traces a Cornish girl, Merewyn, who is revealed to be a result of a Viking raid, and Rumon, a French descendant of Charlemagne. Their lives intersect several times, as they thread their ways through the royal house of first King Edgar and then Ethelred the Unready. The influences of both the raiding Norsemen and the Christian church are well-presented. It is primarily the person stories that lack impact. Merewyn, to whom we should feel attached, falls a bit flat for me, and displays a kind of inconsistency of character that bothers me as well. I do feel the section that deals with her life among the Iceland/Greenland Norse is better-written than her time in England.

I have had this book sitting on my shelf for years and have always believed it was going to be a book I would love if I could ever get it into the schedule. It was not that, but I am pleased to be able to say I have read it and that I did walk away with information and impressions of the time period that I did not have at the outset.
( )
  phantomswife | Jul 6, 2018 |
Years ago I read two books by Anya Seton: Katherine and My Theodosia. I remember loving both of those and I'm currently working on my own novel set in tenth century Sweden and England. I decided to read Avalon partly as research and partly because I knew I would enjoy it. In my memory, the other two Seton novels were more powerful than this one, but that could be due to the span of years since I read them. In any case, this is a five star read.

The plot tells the story of Rumon, a French nobleman, and Merewyn, a young Cornish woman, whom we first meet as a teenager. Rumon, whose formal name is Romieux de Provence, is on his way to serve in the court of Edgar I, the current King of England. He encounters Merewyn, whose mother has just died. Rumon agrees to bring the young woman to her Aunt Merwinna, the current Abbess of Romsey Abbey.

As with Anya Seton's other novels, this is fiction based on historic fact. Many of the characters are historic figures. I believe Merewyn is fictional, but Rumon has some connection to a real character. The story also includes King Edgar I, King Edward (Edgar's son), Queen Alfrida, King Ethelred (Alfrida's son by Edgar – known as “the unready”), Dunstan (the Archbishop of Canterbury), Erik the Red, and Leif Erikson (Erik's son). The settings include England, Ireland, Greenland, and a brief stay in North America. The history of this era has conflicts and voids, but I felt that Anya Seton did an excellent job of resolving those. Avalon feels accurate in historic fact, portrayal of the hardships people faced at that time, and in the personalities of the characters, both fictional and real.

Steve Lindahl – author of Hopatcong Vision Quest, White Horse Regressions, and Motherless Soul ( )
  SteveLindahl | Dec 27, 2016 |
This was a most excellent historical fiction with the setting the Viking and Norman conquests of England about 1000 AD. The main character, Merewyn, believed she was a descendant of King Arthur. Rumon, was a prince looking for Avalon, a mythical place of peace and harmony. So many real historical personages appear in this tale making it doubly delightful. ( )
  tess_schoolmarm | Jul 3, 2016 |
Having loved Seton’s Katherine and Green Darkness, I was greatly disappointed with Avalon. I found the main characters to be poorly developed and, as a result, never developed much of an interest in the story. ( )
  Melissa_J | Jan 16, 2016 |
One of my very favorite authors since high school, I have always loved Anya
Seton. Life in pre Norman Conquest Britain was tough enough, then throw in Viking Raiders and a weak monarchy and things disintegrated quickly. Strong female characters. ( )
  Joanne53 | Dec 22, 2013 |
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The fogs were still dripping in from the Atlantic when Merewyn met the stranger by the Camel River.
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This saga travels across oceans and continents to Iceland, Greenland, and North America during the time in history when Anglo-Saxons battled Vikings and the Norsemen discovered America. The marked contrasts between powerful royalty, landless peasants, Viking warriors and noble knights are expertly brought to life in this gripping tale of the French prince named Rumon. Shipwrecked off the Cornish coast on his quest to find King Arthur's legendary Avalon, Rumon meets a lonely girl named Merewyn and their lives soon become intertwined. Rumon brings Merewyn to England, but once there he is so dazzled by Queen Alrida's beauty that it makes him a virtual prisoner to her will.… (more)

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