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The Owl Service by Alan Garner
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The Owl Service (1967)

by Alan Garner

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
1,225286,502 (3.8)89
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    The Earth Witch by Louise Lawrence (Sakerfalcon)
    Sakerfalcon: Both are books based on Welsh mythology, with teenage protagonists caught up by forces from the distant past.
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» See also 89 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 28 (next | show all)
AUDIO Review - This is a really cool audio. For starters, each chapter is punctuated with classical music - music from the Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra with Libor Persek, conducting. Wayne Forester does a great job reading the story as well. My one gripe? The plot itself was a little difficult to follow since a lot of detail is implied rather than spelled out. I might have had an easier time of it if I had read it rather than listen to it on audio. This is part children's story, part Welsh legend. The Owl Service takes children and adults alike through mythology and modern day tensions. Alison and Roger are step-children brought together by the marriage of Alison's mother to Roger's father. In an attempt to bond the family they go on holiday to the countryside of Wales. The vacation home has been in Alison's family for years and with it comes a cook/housekeeper and her son, Gwyn, who happens to be the same age as Alison and Roger. Together, the three children struggle to find their place in the newly formed union. But, the story really begins when Alison hears a noise in the attic. Nothing is there except a pile of dishware with an owl/flower design. These plates become the center of an ancient welsh myth and become Alison's obsession. Strange things start to happen. As she traces the design onto paper it disappears from the plates, leaving them a plain white porcelain. Then the plates are discovered smashed, one by one. What follows is a tale of secrets unraveling - great for young and old. ( )
  SeriousGrace | Oct 3, 2014 |
Imagine. It is the school holidays, you spend them in a Welsh cottage with your mother, step-brother and step-father, a surly Welsh housekeeper and her son. You hear rustling noises in the attic above your bedroom. Investigating, you find a stack of painted plates and bring some down. You look at the flower pattern, and suddenly it looks more like owls than flowers. Soon you see only the owls. You copy the pattern, cut out paper owls, and they vanish. The pattern mysteriously disappears off the plates. You watch, you are watched - the atmosphere is eerie, uncomfortable, dark and damp, nightmarish... This is a book for children - or young adults - but even at my old age I found it scary and unsettling. The story is based on legends of the Mabinogion, brought to almost modern times (first published 1967). A lot of the action is represented by rather disjointed dialogue, and you have to "gather" what is happening rather than understand it by descriptions, so it is sometimes hard to follow and I occasionally had to go back a few pages and re-read. A haunting book, which I want to read again once the feathers have settled.

Beautiful illustrations in this FS edition. ( )
  overthemoon | Apr 18, 2014 |
Amazon -The much-loved classic, finally in ebook.

Winner of both the Guardian Award and the Carnegie Medal, this is an all-time classic, combining mystery, adventure, history and a complex set of human relationships.

It all begins with the scratching in the ceiling. From the moment Alison discovers the dinner service in the attic, with its curious pattern of floral owls, a chain of events is set in progress that is to effect everybody’s lives.

Relentlessly, Alison, her step-brother Roger and Welsh boy Gwyn are drawn into the replay of a tragic Welsh legend – a modern drama played out against a background of ancient jealousies. As the tension mounts, it becomes apparent that only by accepting and facing the situation can it be resolved.
  Vanessamom25 | Jan 17, 2014 |
Another story based on the legend of Blodeuwedd from the Mabinogion. In the original story Blodeuwedd is made out of flowers as a wife for Lleu Law Gyffes, who has been cursed by his mother to never have a wife of any human race. But Blodeuwedd falls in love with a huntsman, Gronw, and they plot together to kill Lleu, who only escapes by magic. And when Lleu returns to take his revenge the stone which Gronw holds up for protection is no match for Lleu's spear, which goes straight through it to kill Gronw. And in punishment for her wickedness Blodeuwedd is changed into an owl ...

But all that is just in the background. In the foreground, Alison and her mother are spending their summer in the Welsh countryside with the mother's new husband and his son Roger. The newness of the family relationships causes its own tension, especially with Roger's sensitivity about his own mother's abandonment of her family, and there are other causes of tension in the house as well. A housekeeper has been hired for the summer, bringing her son Gwyn, and the relationship between the upper-middle class and English Alison and Roger, and the working-class and Welsh Gwyn is fraught with problems, with Gwyn falling into an uncomfortable gap between friend and employee. So when Alison hears strange scratching noises in the attic above her room it is Gwyn who goes up to investigate, discovering a china dinner service decorated with flowers. A dinner service which makes his mother unreasonably upset, and with which Alison is seemingly becoming obsessed as she recombines the flower patterns on the plates to form the owls which are hidden within, owls which mysteriously disappear as soon as they are made. And when Roger finds the stone of Gronw in the field below the house it seems as though the events of the legend are starting to impinge on the events of the current day.

I enjoyed this much more than when I'd read it originally as a child when I remember finding it confusing, even though I would have known the basics of the original story: Garner writes in a spare and minimalist style where no extraneous information is given. But reading it as an adult I can see much more of the undercurrents that link the narrative together which make it a rewarding read. So four stars for this one, it would have been four and a half it it hadn't been for the ending, which didn't live up to the promise of the rest of the book. ( )
  SandDune | Sep 18, 2013 |
I can't believe I haven't reviewed this book. I read it when it was little, and it scared me quite a lot at the time -- I was a 'fraidy cat. The subject matter, the story of Blodeuwedd, is something I've been especially interested in ever since. I thought the story was weird as hell at the time I read it, but I loved it a lot and it made that part of the Mabinogion stick in my head very strongly. I remember very vividly when I read it, when I was given the book, which I think is a sign that it's probably as good as I remember.

Having just read the Fionavar tapestry and Ysabel, Guy Gavriel Kay's books in which people are trapped into reliving an ancient story, I think I might go back to this book for a comparison. I'll add any fresh thoughts on it if I do. ( )
1 vote shanaqui | Apr 9, 2013 |
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» Add other authors (2 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Alan Garnerprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Finn, PaulCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Juva, KerstiTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Schwinger, LaurenceCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
-The owls are restless.
People have died here,
Good men for bad reasons,
Better forgotten.-    
R.S. Thomas
I will build my love a tower
By the clear crystal fountain,
And on it I will build
All the flowers of the mountain.

Traditional
Possessive parents rarely live long enough to see the fruits of their selfishness.

Radio Times: 15 September 1965
Dedication
For Cinna
First words
"How's the bellyache, then?"
Quotations
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
Publisher's editors
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References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English (1)

Book description
A contemporary adaptation of the Welsh myth of Blodeuwedd (which was told in the Fourth Branch of the Mabinogi).

An ancient Welsh wizard created a woman from flowers. She had an affair and was turned into an owl as punishment for persuading her lover to kill her husband. Three teenagers find themselves reenacting the legend after finding a dinner service bearing an owl pattern.
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0152056181, Paperback)

Something is scratching around in the attic above Alison's room. Yet the only thing up there is a stack of grimy old plates. Alison and her stepbrother, Roger, discover that the flowery patterns on the plates, when traced onto paper, can be fitted together to create owls--owls that disappear when no one is watching. With each vanished owl, strange events begin to happen . As the kids uncover the mystery of the owl service, they become trapped within a local legend, playing out roles in a tragic love story that has repeated itself for generations . . . and has always ended in disaster.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:47:47 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

During a summer vacation in a secluded Welsh valley, three young people find themselves driven by the spirits of three mythical lovers to reenact an ancient tragedy.

» see all 4 descriptions

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