Fair Helen

Fair Helen

A veritable account of Fair Helen of Kirkconnel Lea, scrieved by Harry Langton.Harry Langton is called back to the country of his childhood to aid an old friend, Adam Fleming, who believes his life is in danger. He's fallen for Helen of Annandale and, in turn, fallen foul of his rival, Robert Bell: a man as violent as he is influential. In an ungovernable land wher...

DownloadRead Online
Title:Fair Helen
Author:Andrew Greig
Rating:
Edition Language:English

Fair Helen Reviews

  • David Santiuste

    A beautifully realised historical novel, written with a poet’s feeling for language, inspired by the Border ballad

    . The author has immersed himself in Border lore – both the ballad tradition and the real history behind it – and this is a splendid evocation of the ‘end days’ of the Riding Times. Andrew Greig’s ‘reimagining’ of the famous ballad is set on the Scottish side of the Border, with occasional forays into ‘Embra’ and further afield, during the last years of the s

    A beautifully realised historical novel, written with a poet’s feeling for language, inspired by the Border ballad

    . The author has immersed himself in Border lore – both the ballad tradition and the real history behind it – and this is a splendid evocation of the ‘end days’ of the Riding Times. Andrew Greig’s ‘reimagining’ of the famous ballad is set on the Scottish side of the Border, with occasional forays into ‘Embra’ and further afield, during the last years of the sixteenth century. The book’s central characters are two young lovers, Helen Irvine and Adam Fleming, whose families have been ‘long at feud’. But as the story of this Scottish Romeo and Juliet moves inevitably (yet always elegantly) towards its tragic conclusion, we also become aware of other forces at work in the Borders…

    In Harry Langton, a cousin of Fair Helen and close friend of Adam, Greig provides us with a compelling narrator. Ostensibly writing forty years on from the events he describes, Harry has never fully recovered, and this gives the novel a moving sense of pathos. But Harry also engages the reader’s interest because he is a complex character (and perhaps not entirely trustworthy), and there are some wonderful flashes of humour too. Moreover, whilst he is wryly dismissive of the songs of the Border, seeking to release his loved ones from ‘the unyielding stone of ballad’, it is also significant that Harry is a man caught between different and conflicting worlds; this successfully conveys a sense of ambivalence, yet also nostalgia, towards a lost way of life.

    Overall then, this is an intriguing, exciting and absorbing novel. Andrew Greig has maintained his usual high standards, and I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys historical fiction.

  • Laura

    SPOILERS(ISH)!!!

    I wish I were where Helen lies!

    Night and day on me she cries;

    O that I were where Helen lies,

    On fair Kirconnell Lee!

    Curst be the heart, that thought the thought,

    And curst the hand, that fired the shot,

    When in my arms burd Helen dropt,

    And died to succour me!

    O think na ye my heart was sair,

    When my love dropt down and spak nae mair!

    There did she swoon wi' meikle care,

    On f

    SPOILERS(ISH)!!!

    I wish I were where Helen lies!

    Night and day on me she cries;

    O that I were where Helen lies,

    On fair Kirconnell Lee!

    Curst be the heart, that thought the thought,

    And curst the hand, that fired the shot,

    When in my arms burd Helen dropt,

    And died to succour me!

    O think na ye my heart was sair,

    When my love dropt down and spak nae mair!

    There did she swoon wi' meikle care,

    On fair Kirconnell Lee.

    *******

    I wish my grave were growing green,

    A winding sheet drawn ower my een,

    And I in Helen's arms lying,

    On fair Kirconnell Lee.

    I wish I were where Helen lies!

    Night and day on me she cries;

    And I am weary of the skies,

    For her sake that died for me.

    I just had to include some excerpts from the ballad Greig's "Fair Helen" is based on - "Fair Helen of Kirkconnel Lea" to show how moving, passionate and stirring a ballad it is. And here, taken from Wikipedia is one explanation of the story behind the ballad:

    "In the burial ground of Kirkconnell, near the Border, is the grave of Helen Irving, recognised by tradition as Fair Helen of Kirkconnell, and who is supposed to have lived in the sixteenth century. It is also the grave of her lover, Adam Fleming – a name that once predominated the district. Helen, according to the narration of Pennant (Pennant’s Tour in Scotland, 1772), “was beloved by two gentlemen at the same time. The one vowed to sacrifice the successful rival to his resentment, and watched an opportunity while the happy pair were sitting on the banks of the Kirtle, that washes these grounds. Helen perceived the desperate lover on the opposite side, and fondly thinking to save her favourite, interposed; and, receiving the wound intended for her beloved, fell and expired in his arms. He instantly revenged her death; then fled into Spain, and served for some time against the Infidels: on his return, he visited the grave of his unfortunate mistress, stretched himself on it, and expiring on the spot, was interred by her side. A cross and a sword are engraven on the tombstone, with 'HIC JACET ADAMUS FLEMING'; the only memorial of this unhappy gentleman, except an ancient ballad which records the tragical event."

    How utterly romantic! (It's for a good reason that Adam and Helen are often referred to as "the Scottish Romeo and Juliet).

    "Fair Helen" doesn't exactly follow the same plot line as the information above outlines, but it is an exceptionally well written, beautiful tale of love, rivalry and conspiracy set against the backdrop of the Scottish borders in the late 16th century. Adam and Helen's families have been feuding for a long time so the couple embark on a secret affair with Helen's cousin and Adam's best friend Harry looking out for them. Harry tells us their story 40 years after it has happened, and he's a really interesting and often entertaining narrator. Harry doesn't ever seem to have fully recovered from the death of his friends and you get the feeling that his writing their story down is a means of catharsis for him.

    Much of the dialogue in this story is in traditional Scots dialect but there's a helpful glossary to help readers make sense of it!

    Highly, highly recommended read!

    PS: This website explains the story and has some lovely pictures of the church and graveyard where Adam and Helen were said to have met:

  • Sandra

    Without doubt one of the best books I've read this year. As Andrew Greig has to be one of the finest poetic novelists I've ever read.

    Set in Scotland's 1590's but with characters as alive as today and with so many, many phrases that made me catch my breath at the sheer joy of them.

    There is tension and drama and love and language - wonderful indeed. A book to be re-read soon.

    And fans of Dorothy Dunnett or Emma Darwin should certainly seek this one out, as a starting point.

  • Luke

    The author has immersed himself in his subject... beautifully written, a little hard to read, but the accomplishment of the author's pen is worthy of so much praise. If you love Scottish lore and poetry. If you love the feel of the romantic scottish poets... Then this is a tremendous read. But beware... the glossary becomes your best friend if you're not a scholar in archaic Scots. Best read in paper form, because of it.

  • Margaret

    This is a wonderful book. I was a it anxious at the start that it would be a sad and miserable tale, the ballad after all begins the book but it was so much more than a simple, tragic love story. A Borderer at heart but now living in the Highlands it managed to make me homesick despite the wildness of the Borderlands at the end of the 16th century. Other reviewers have remarked on the archaic Scots dialect but I don't think many modern Borderers would have use of the glossary.

    It was a diff

    This is a wonderful book. I was a it anxious at the start that it would be a sad and miserable tale, the ballad after all begins the book but it was so much more than a simple, tragic love story. A Borderer at heart but now living in the Highlands it managed to make me homesick despite the wildness of the Borderlands at the end of the 16th century. Other reviewers have remarked on the archaic Scots dialect but I don't think many modern Borderers would have use of the glossary.

    It was a difficult time in Scottish history( when wasn't?). Andrew Greig's skill is in describing the massive changes in Scottish society ,such as the new Protestant religion and the expected Union of the Crowns as they would have been understood by ordinary people of the day. A book that makes one want to learn more of our turbulent history and read more by this author.

  • Ellen Forkin

    I adored this book. It's thick with beautiful descriptions and fantastic Scottish language and dialect. The book's inspiration and characters come from the Scottish ballad Fair Helen of Kirkconnel Lea and follows the life of a witness and key player of the tragic romance. Despite this, I didn't find the book maudlin or depressive, which I was a touch worried about. It's set in medieval Scotland - with 'James Sax' (James VI) and the 'Auld Hag' (Elizabeth I) - a period I love but know very little

    I adored this book. It's thick with beautiful descriptions and fantastic Scottish language and dialect. The book's inspiration and characters come from the Scottish ballad Fair Helen of Kirkconnel Lea and follows the life of a witness and key player of the tragic romance. Despite this, I didn't find the book maudlin or depressive, which I was a touch worried about. It's set in medieval Scotland - with 'James Sax' (James VI) and the 'Auld Hag' (Elizabeth I) - a period I love but know very little about from a Scottish point of view. I enjoyed the book's interesting characters, rich settings and chaotic politics of a bloody, hectic era in the Borders.

    5 stars for the language alone. (It even has a dictionary at the back.) A few of my favourite words were 'stushie', 'glisk', 'wabbit' and after the character had ridden a horse for too long: 'arse-nibbit'!

  • Ian

    An enjoyable tale of love, intrigue and feud set in the late 16th century Scottish Borders, a notoriously lawless time and place. The (fictional)story is inspired by a well-known Border Ballad, "Fair Helen of Kirkconnel" and is told from the perspective of a friend of one the lady's two rival suitors, writing 40 or 50 years after the events took place. The standard of writing is well above that of most historical novels, and the author keeps the tension racked up as the protagonists struggle to

    An enjoyable tale of love, intrigue and feud set in the late 16th century Scottish Borders, a notoriously lawless time and place. The (fictional)story is inspired by a well-known Border Ballad, "Fair Helen of Kirkconnel" and is told from the perspective of a friend of one the lady's two rival suitors, writing 40 or 50 years after the events took place. The standard of writing is well above that of most historical novels, and the author keeps the tension racked up as the protagonists struggle to make their way in a world of political scheming, shifting alliances and casual violence. Much of the spoken dialogue in the novel is in Scots dialect, but the book contains a glossary to help those unfamiliar with the vocabulary. Recommended.

  • Kate

    Beautifully written, but didn't quite come together at a book/story level the way it shone at a word/sentence/paragraph/vignette level -- like pearls strung at a slightly oddly spaced distances.

  • Jo

    Greig takes the medieval Scottish folk ballad as his inspiration and weaves a fictionalised account of Fair Helen. Told from the point of view of Helen's cousin Harry, we learn the tale of the doomed lovers said to be the Scottish Romeo & Juliet. The Scots language used throughout took some getting used to and the glossary didn't explain all but the story was easy enough to understand and become involved with. Enjoyed this more than I thought I would.

  • Artemiz

    Andrew Greig's Fair Helen has got his inspiration from ancient ballad about Helen Irving, a young woman, who lived in sixteenth century. The story is "written" by Helen's cousin Harry Langton - blacksmith's son, scribe, translator and fugitive.

    Harry who has sent to live with his aunt after the death of his parents, has grown up with Helen. They are like siblings, but Helen is also Harry's best friend. Harry has another dear friend, Adam Fleming, with whom he met in university.

    Andrew Greig's Fair Helen has got his inspiration from ancient ballad about Helen Irving, a young woman, who lived in sixteenth century. The story is "written" by Helen's cousin Harry Langton - blacksmith's son, scribe, translator and fugitive.

    Harry who has sent to live with his aunt after the death of his parents, has grown up with Helen. They are like siblings, but Helen is also Harry's best friend. Harry has another dear friend, Adam Fleming, with whom he met in university.

    When Adam invites Harry to visit him, since he is sure, his stepfather wants to kill him, Harry must ask permission to leave his work fro a while. He gets his time of from office, but he will not get time of work. Harry is sent to observe the clans at the Borderlands and report back everything he sees or hears about their doings, relationships and intrigues.

    Harry is listening Adam's theories, why he thinks somebody wants him dead, about his feelings about Helen and Adam's bodyguard teaches Harry to defend himself. Together the men go to a raid across the border. Harry himself gets almost killed, while he was leaving his old flame. And Harry is accompanying Adam on his secret meetings with Helen.

    Things get even more complicated when old feuding families - Flemings and Irvings - are befriended again and the Irvings announce the engagement of Helen and Robert Bell. After the "joyful" event Bell's bodyguard charges Adam's dog and bodyguard and Adam's bodyguard ends up in prison after killing the attacker.

    Harry must report everything he sees or hears to his master, even if by not doing so he could save his friend, but he is that afraid of his master, that he tells him even the things that where trusted to him as secrets.

    On the faithful day, when Harry is forbidden to follow Adam, he finally figures out what kind of game is being played and what part he has in this game. Especially after his old flame comes to warn him, Harry hurries after Adam and Helen, but is still to late. All that's left for him is witness.

    So this old man, who has lost his fingers, and who spent a long time in underground dungeon before he was let to escape, was living a long time away from Scotland, but the events, that made him run, have always been with him just as fresh as the day that they happened. He does not want to die before he has shared his story with the world.

    So this is the story, that has got its inspiration from the old ballad and unhappy love story. But it was really difficult to read. As the storyteller is an "old man", his story jumps here and there, sometimes into past sometimes into yesterday and at times it's difficult to understand, whether this chapter was about yesterday lunch or feast of long past. But at the same time it was interesting with the old Scottish language and all. There is a dictionary for the old Scottish at the end of the book, but if you read from a e-reader like I did, it is difficult to use.

    There was a moment when I thought that maybe another old story has got it's inspiration from Adam's, Helen's and Harry's story. A story about mad prince, about his mother who married her husbands brother after they poisoned him and about this mad prince's mad pride, but it might have been my imagination, that Harry "confessed" his unbelievable adventures to this particular bard. :)

    It was a good story, but it was difficult to read.

Best Books Online is in no way intended to support illegal activity. Use it at your risk. We uses Search API to find books/manuals but doesn´t host any files. All document files are the property of their respective owners. Please respect the publisher and the author for their copyrighted creations. If you find documents that should not be here please report them


©2019 Best Books Online - All rights reserved.