Author: Barbara Erskine
Published: April 2021 by HarperCollins
Category: Contemporary Fiction, Historical Fiction
In a cottage hidden amongst the misty Welsh hills of Offa’s Dyke, Bea Dalloway is called to help Simon Armstrong, who is searching for peace. Instead he finds himself disturbed by unsettling noises and visions.
It isn’t long before Bea is also swept up by haunting dreams. The past is whispering to them, calling out for the truth to be told at last. And as dreams and reality weave closer together, Bea and Simon must be strong to resist the pull of the past – and its desire for revenge…
Simon Armstrong has rented an isolated cottage situated on on the Welsh Marches, close to what remains of Offa’s Dyke, while he concentrates on writing his next book – a history of the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Mercia. The peace and seclusion he envisaged is interrupted by the desperate sounds of a woman sobbing, calling out a name and banging at the door, but he has never been able to catch a glimpse of anyone. The owner of the cottage puts Simon in contact with Bea Dalloway, the local Canon Treasurer’s wife, who deals with strange occurrences. Bea is intrigued by Simon’s account of the unsettling disturbances he is subjected to.
‘I deal with situations that other people consider frightening: the darkest corners of an old house, the sudden banging of doors, the creak of floorboards, the shadows thrown on a wall from an unseen presence.’
Before long Bea is embroiled, almost against her will initially, in visions and dreams of life in the court of King Offa, the king’s ruthless ambition, his scheming wife, the fate of his children — particularly Eadburh, the youngest daughter. She is destined for an arranged marriage but has fallen in love with Elisedd, a Welsh prince from Powys. The Dream Weavers is the story of their doomed relationship and how it echoes down the centuries.
Mercia in 788AD is imagined incredibly well and brought to life in a realistic and atmospheric way, the fact and fiction seamlessly woven together. In the present, Bea and Simon’s daughter walk a dangerous path between two worlds, and not all the danger lies in the past. The story incorporates magic, myth and the supernatural.
It’s while since I read a Barbara Erskine novel and although the ones I have read follow a similar-ish pattern in that the present somehow collides with the past, I still enjoyed this one. The Dream Weavers is a sweeping and entertaining story with an authentic feel to life in the eighth century. My only criticism is that the book could have done with a little pruning. It didn’t need to be quite as long as 512 pages.
My thanks to HarperCollins and NetGalley for my review copy
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A historian by training, Barbara Erskine is the author of many bestselling novels that demonstrate her interest in both history and the supernatural, plus three collections of short stories. Her books have appeared in at least twenty-six languages. Her first novel, Lady of Hay, has sold over two million copies worldwide. She lives with her family in an ancient manor house near Colchester and in a cottage near Hay-on-Wye.