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The Owl Service

The Owl Service

Written by Alan Garner

Narrated by Wayne Forester


The Owl Service

Written by Alan Garner

Narrated by Wayne Forester

ratings:
3.5/5 (45 ratings)
Length:
4 hours
Released:
Apr 1, 2008
ISBN:
9789629547844
Format:
Audiobook

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Also available as ebookEbook

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Description

After hearing scratches in the attic, Alison discovers a dinner service covered in an intriguing floral owl pattern, and a series of events are set in motion that will change her life forever. Alison, her step-brother Roger and Welsh boy Gwyn are forced into a cyclical replay of the tragic Welsh legend of Blodeuwedd, in which a woman is turned into an owl as a punishment for betraying her husband. The Owl Service is a fabulous, multi-layered book of mystery and suspense, but also a contemporary musing on love, class structure and power.

Released:
Apr 1, 2008
ISBN:
9789629547844
Format:
Audiobook

Also available as...

Also available as ebookEbook

About the author

Alan Garner was born and still lives in Cheshire, an area which has had a profound effect on his writing and provided the seed of many ideas worked out in his books. His fourth book, ‘The Owl Service’ brought Alan Garner to everyone’s attention. It won two important literary prizes – The Guardian Award and the Carnegie Medal – and was made into a serial by Granada Television. It has established itself as a classic and Alan Garner as a writer of great distinction.



Reviews

What people think about The Owl Service

3.4
45 ratings / 18 Reviews
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Reader reviews

  • (3/5)
    I found a boxed set of 4 children's stories written by Alan Garner. These are bog standard classic British fantasies derived from folklore of the British Isles. What I find most interesting is that these stories each end quite abruptly at the climax showing that the initial problem that spurred the story has been addressed. No resolution, no wrap up, just mission accomplished, drop curtain.The Weirdstone of Brisingamen was published in 1960 and features siblings Colin and Susan who have just arrived at the village of Alderley Edge in Cheshire, due south of Manchester, for an extended stay while their parents are out of the country. They immediately explore the woods of The Edge, a hilly area that includes abandoned mines and quarries just outside the village, and fall headlong into adventure involving the morthbrood (witches) headed by the Morrigan, svarts or svart-alfar (goblins) headed by Arthog and Slinkveal, the dwarves Fenodytree and Durathror and their fearsome swords Widowmaker and Dyrnwyn, the wizard Cadellin Silverbrow, Angharad Goldenhand (the Lady of the Lake) and various others. Everyone is seeking Firefrost, the weirdstone that powers the enchantment that keeps a king of yore with 149 of his valorous knights, all accompanied by pure white steeds all asleep until the final battle when they are needed. Cadellin is their eternal guardian and rescues the children from evil creatures, thus introducing High Magic into their existence as they seek to understand why the children are in danger. It's a blend of high fantasy, Celtic gods, and Arthurian legend by other names.The Moon of Gomrath was published in 1963. Colin, Susan, Cadellin and the Morrigan are the only characters carried over from the first story as this book introduces a new cast inspired by a different set of legends. Colin and Susan are despondent that they've heard nothing from the wizard Cadellin since evil was vanquished and Firefrost returned. Susan seeks solitude and tranquility at the quarry pond. As she's ready to leave, she encounters a beautiful black pony that nudges her for a ride then jumps off the cliff and into the dark water (sounds like a kelpie!). Meanwhile, the dwarf Uthecar Hornskin reports that the Morrigan is not dead and must surely want revenge on the children for her earlier defeat. This time, the evil hordes are not the svart-alfar but the bodachs (bogeymen or bugbears) and palug-cats (giant cats). Once again, the the children are catapulted into danger and mystery, but this time they encounter Old Magic, via the hilltop balefires and the Wild Hunt. They also meet the lios-alfar (elves) who are helpful but only to a point and at a cost. Other legends that turn up are the Black Dog as the harbinger of death and the triple goddess manifested in 3 different women representing different life stages and cycles of the moon.Elidor was published in 1965 and features four siblings, Roland the youngest, Helen, David, and Nicholas the oldest. They're sightseeing in Manchester and find themselves in an abandoned neighborhood that's being demolished. One by one, they go into the shell of a church and disappear. Thus begins this story of parallel worlds and intertwined fates. Malebron is king of Elidor, which has been overtaken by darkness and evil, its 4 Treasures lost. The 4 children are the only hope of recovering the Treasures and pushing back the darkness, and he uses the wrecked church as a portal to bring the children to Elidor to help him. Roland, the youngest, is the most powerful and the most willing to believe. Maybe the most powerful because he has the most belief and imagination because he still holds the most sense of wonder of childhood. The Treasures are a sword, a spear, a chalice, and a keystone. Their purpose is never explained because they are never really used in the story. They are simply the focus of interest by both heroes and villains, much like the weirdstone in the first book.The Owl Service was published in 1967 and is set in Wales. Alison and Roger are teenage step-siblings whose parents have remarried to create this blended family. They are vacationing with their parents at the family summer cottage. Gwyn is the teenage son of the housekeeper who has never before lived in this home valley of his mother though he grew up with all the stories and history of the place. The three of them alternately work together and are at odds as strange things start happening. Alison hears an insistent and ever louder scratching in the attic over her room, but investigation reveals only dishes with a beautiful floral pattern that creates a hidden owl motif that Alison compulsively traces onto paper and so it begins. The three become the magical focus of a cyclical resurgence of the tragic love triangle of the Welsh legend of Blodeuwedd. The key part of the legend is that Blodeuwedd was a woman created from flowers to become a bride and then transformed into an owl after attempting with her lover to murder her husband. When her magical essence returns to this secluded valley, will she manifest with the gentleness of flowers or the predatory nature of owls, and what toll will it take on the residents and descendants of that fateful place/tale?
  • (4/5)
    Inspired by Welsh mythology, this story is of ordinary people pulled from their ordinary lives into a magical and dangerous world. The legend goes that Blodeuwedd was the girl made by a wizard from flowers. She was created in order to be the bride of a prince who had been cursed never to marry a mortal woman. She conspired with her lover to murder the prince, and as punishment was turned into an owl. This little treasure was first published in 1967. It was an interesting read... but as it was written in the dialect of the Welsh and the Irish, some may find it a bit hard to follow.
  • (3/5)
    I read this hoping I might be able to write my Celtic Literature paper on it; it ended up not being a good fit, but it was still a pretty interesting novel. It centers around the brief friendship of two English teenagers with a Welsh boy their age. The depiction of Welsh-English hostilities was the strongest thread of the novel; Gwyn, the Welsh boy, is a great character and his story is subtle but heartbreaking. There was also a very cool contrast between the social realism and the fantasy elements (which were all straight out of Welsh mythology.)

    What makes this book especially quirky is the style; it's very sparse, occasionally to the point of being confusing, and is generally very elliptical in terms of storytelling. On one hand, this was kind of cool, but I was already being plunged into an unfamiliar place and time, so the effect was somewhat overwhelming.

    Generally I felt like I was peering into a world that I didn't belong in. This is a cool experience, but I never quite got comfortable in it.
  • (3/5)
    I don't think I got this book... The Owl Service tells the story of three teenagers in a Welsh mansion, mixed with an old Welsh folk story. To begin with some negatives, I found the language very hard to understand at times. I don't know if it's the age of the book, the Welsh, or just the writing style, but I really had to pay attention. And still, I felt like I was missing a lot of the story. The good thing about this book is that, despite my limited understanding, the feeling of the book comes across. It is creepy and mysterious. Overall, I didn't hate the book, but I can't say I'd recommend it.
  • (3/5)
    This is a very strange book. There are some things I liked about it - I liked the way the plot unfolded, and I thought Garner created some neat moments around the intrusion of a mythical world into a real one.However, there are more things I didn't like about it. Sometimes the plot was really confusing, because there is hardly any narration at all - the story is told almost entirely through conversations between characters, and their conversations can be odd and hard to follow.But the big problem I had with the book is that I don't think Garner developed any sort of relationship between the myth and the modern storyline. In Garner's story, the medieval story of Blodeuwedd has never been completed, and is relived over and over by the modern characters. But it's hard to see any clear relationship between the modern characters and the mythical ones, and it's not clear why the story is relived over and over, and it's really not clear what happens at the end of the book. So I don't think the myth really added anything to the modern story, and I don't think the modern story added any new insights into the myth. This left me quite unsatisfied at the end of the book.
  • (3/5)
    This is an award winning book from an excellent author, and set in a location very close to where I live. I should have loved it as much as I loved his other works, but unfortunately I did not connect with this book.The story recalls the Welsh legend in the Mabinogion of Blodeuwedd. It uses the legend as a central part of the story, where an ancient tragedy is endlessly recapitulated each generation. Will this generation find a way to avoid that destiny?Unfortunately the characterisation did not work for me. That is perhaps my problem, not the author's. Worse, some of the research was lacking - both in terms of geography and the Welsh language (the author avoids using Welsh words as much as possible, but, for instance, when he does use a name: "Lleu", he rhymes it with "Clue". It would be more closely rhymed with "Clay" in fact).Maybe it was these niggles that put me off. Maybe to a reader unfamiliar with the area, the legend and the language would enjoy this more. But for me, it is one Alan Garner book I cannot positively recommend.Having said that, it is not a bad read. I just think other works are better.*EDIT: I now find myself unsure whether it was in fact "Llew" that he rhymed with "Clue". Still wrong though. Llew does not sound like "Clue". In fact it does not rhyme any English word I can think of. The "ew" being a sound like the "we" in "went" said backwards.