Sleeper’s Castle


This was my suggestion for November’s book club. I read ‘The Lady of Hay‘ some  20 years ago and thoroughly enjoyed it. I thought it was new, fresh, different and an  exciting  linking of past and present, fiction and non-fiction and was a brilliant, mystical and spine-tingling read. I enjoyed it so much that I couldn’t wait to read more books by Barbara Erskine and there then followed a stream of books of hers which I devoured with a passion. And then I stopped reading her. No reason,  just that I moved away from Erskine to read other authors!! So when I saw this book while searching for suggestions for Book Club I jumped at the opportunity to put it forward as our next book, relishing the thought of revisiting the brilliance of Barbara Erskine. 

So, what did I make of it?

It was a very good read. However, having read so many of Barbara Erskine books and thoroughly enjoying them all I have to say that I felt that I had ‘outgrown’ her. I once found the mystery, ghostly quality and supernatural theme running though her books thrilling and intoxicating, they kept making me look over my shoulder while reading and listening for noises late into the night,  but alas, that enthusiasm wasn’t reignited this time round. I felt that this book did not quite have that magic that the others once held for me.  The historical side of Catrin and Dafydd and their involvement with Owain Glyndwr was true to history and very interesting, but their continuous journey around Wales, in and out of castles, singing and entertaining went on 200 miles too far for me!! The modern day story was also a little contrived and predictable and why oh why write a spin off story involving the incredible character of Rhona? I felt she was superfluous to needs.

The story line, plot and character relationships have not changed over 30 years. Miserable/angry handsome male meets unhappy, lost female who instantly dislike each other. The villain / evil  lurks in the background and hated male becomes the hero and misunderstood hate becomes passionate love!! The ending of this novel was very predictable and a bit too neat and tidy for me. Andy, the main character was not very likeable either!!

Now, that all sounds very negative, but I would certainly and wholeheartedly recommend Barbara Erskine to you. If you haven’t read her before you may thoroughly enjoy this book but I would suggest you choose an earlier book, preferably They Lady of Hay if you want to read Barbara Erskine at her very best.

Take a look at what Goodreads has to say about Barbara Erskine. I urge you to choose one of her earlier books to read and enjoy!

At Book Club, the book was a relative success. We all enjoyed it but for those reading the work of Barbara Erskine for the first time, one or two will not be reading her again. Others, I am happy to say, will!

We had a lovely evening this month. Hot soup and fresh crusty bread were on the menu followed by – dare I say it – the first taste of Christmas in the form of mince pies, with plenty of wine, as usual or, for the drivers, tea and coffee and lots of discussion both about the book and the choosing of the next one!!

Yumm! That autumn veg soup was delicious!!
And then there were three!! 
Looking studious!!

Our next meeting is our Christmas night out and the book we are reading is ‘All the Light We cannot See’ by Anthony Doerr. Look out for the next blog and please leave a message if you have read either books discussed here. It would be lovely to hear from you.



4 thoughts on “Sleeper’s Castle

  1. I liked Sleepers’ Castle and found it a pleasant, absorbing read which linked the lives of two women five centuries apart through their ghostly entanglement. I love a good ghost story so this entertained me and it was also interesting to learn about Welsh history in the fourteenth/ fifteenth centuries; this is a period of history of which I know very little so reading about the daily lives of Catrin, Dafydd and Joan has helped educate me to a point in that department. The author herself admits that she is not sure if all her facts are historically correct regarding Owen Glyndwr’s escapades but in writing a novel she is entitled to some poetic imagination and it is certainly true that he laid waste to many of his own castles in this early fight for independence; once again the bleakness and horror of war are laid bare and its destructiveness deftly described.
    Coming to the modern day, Andy is a slightly annoying character as she tends to take on the role of a victim and does not have any inclination to fight for her rights or stand up to the evil Rhona and in that she is a polar opposite of Catrin who was a much feistier character. She tends to stand back helplessly from unpleasant situations, run away instead of standing to fight but luckily for her she has a knight in shining armour to battle for her in the form of the handsome gardener stroke psychologist together with the local Welsh wizard who interprets her increasingly menacing dreams and gives her helpful Rosemary remedies. I have to say that her friend Sian supported her to a point but come every terrifying moment had to back away and left Andy in the lurch and to the potential clutches of the evil Dafydd in order to feed or walk her wretched dogs. How many dinners did those dogs have? Didn’t she realise the ghost was on his way?(intent on imprisoning Andy in the past? )
    Overall this was a well written narrative account of the lives and dreams of these women; it lacked the creative imagery, style and depths of characterization of some of the other books we have read but as an absorbing, light bedtime/ holiday read it was able to keep the pages turning. She has a passion for the beauty of Wales and brought it to life the Wye valley area; you can almost smell and taste the herbs in her garden, hear the continuous music of the turbulent stream and picture the castle and ruggedly bleak landscape of the Black mountains in contrast to the gentleness of Hay.


  2. Been so long ago I can’t remember it very well but that is sad as when I really enjoy a book tend to remember it (mind you, could also be an age thing!!!). The thing with this book, in my opinion, and it was my choice as I love (loved) Barbara Erskine, maybe it was too much like all the other books she has written and as I have read so many they all blend into one. I enjoyed it, don’t get me wrong, but didn’t really excite my like The Lady of Hay, Child of the Phoenix or Kingdom of Shadows. Great review from you though, as usual x


  3. Sleeper’s Castle

    I went into this novel with an open mind. I was under the impression it would be historical (which greatly interested me) and also romantic (which greatly did not). Although the book did have two distinct time periods (along with the genres), neither of them were particularly good.
    The historical parts, set in the 15th century, are by far the best parts. It concerns a young Welsh woman and her struggles in coping with a psychotic father and her burgeoning emotions towards someone she should not. The writing is fine and the plot is interesting enough, if a tad (i.e. massively) melodramatic at times. Why the author didn’t set the entire book during this period is beyond me. Set during a time of strife in Wales, when Owain Glyndwr was in open rebellion of the English rule, Sleeper’s Castle could have been a riveting epic about a patriotic Welsh woman torn between her heart and her duty but instead chose the route of wishy-washy, Mills and Boone fodder. And remember, this is the good bit haha.
    The modern day element is idiotic. I did love the fact that it was set in Hay, “the book village”, one of my favourite places in the world. But that alone couldn’t save the plot. The crux of the story is that Miranda, the protagonist, has been widowed and moves to Hay to grieve. However, she is followed and hunted by Rita, the ex of her husband (or boyfriend – I don’t remember which). And here is where my annoyance hit critical mass. Rita is a small, unstable woman with huge mental health issues. And the author treats her like she is Nosferatu, or even Satan himself. I was expected to believe that this little angry woman was a hugely dangerous villain. Quite a few times in the book did Miranda have the chance to defend or save herself but didn’t. There was always some excuse. Multiple times during the book did I think “oh for Christ’s sake, just headbutt the b**ch!” – they say “violence doesn’t solve the problem” and in this case the proverbial “they” would be completely wrong. Punch Rita in the face and then call the police. Job done. Book over. Sure, it would be a short, anti-climactic book…but at least it would have been bloody realistic. And easily better.

    2 out of 5.


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