South Wales. 1645. Ten-year-old Thomas Mansell is in disgrace and he is sent away to stay with his uncle and aunt and his two cousins. They live in Llancaiach Fawr Manor. On arrival, Colonel Pritchard, his uncle, sends Thomas’s sadistic tutor back to his father and says he will be responsible for Thomas’s education himself.
Colonel Pritchard’s idea of education is quite different from the tutor’s. He forbids Thomas to study Latin and Greek and instead has him taught about muskets, pikes and how to use a sword. Naturally Thomas finds all this more interesting, but what he likes best is when he is allowed to ride around the estate with Ifor, the stableboy. They ride along the river and sometimes dismount and guddle for fish and swim in the river.
Then there is a description of the gathering of the harvest and the festivities which follow it.
This book has a great deal of historical detail. The reader hears how dead rats were added to cider and about the gruesome remedies for everyday ailments. And how pigeons were used to carry messages. Much of this information is conveyed by footnotes.
Even in this quiet backwater the Civil War intrudes. Thomas overhears things which he should not––about how his father and uncle are thinking of changing sides. Then there is danger from marauding deserters.
Today Llancaiach Fawr Manor is a living history museum, preserved as it was in 1645 with people dressed as the family and staff of the time. There is a related web site at http://www.caerphilly.gov.uk/llancaiachfawr. A visit to this web site will flesh out the story of Thomas.
It is told in the first person by Thomas. Entertaining and informative with some idyllic descriptions of country life at the time. Ages 8-12.