Granuaile: The Pirate Queen
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At the centre of Llywelyn's novel is the colourful life of Granuaile, described in the book's sub-title as 'she-king of Connacht, a leader of men and the terror of the western seas'. We are in 16th-century Ireland, a country dominated by internal feuds and dissension and by the continuing struggle, as Granuaile expresses it in one of her letters to her son, 'to break the hold of England on this island once and for all'. The times and the politics are complex and a quite careful reading is required if the roles played by the numerous clans, chieftains and English governors are to be clearly differentiated. There is, however, no difficulty whatsoever in following Granuaile's own astonishing and adventurous career, whether on the seas, in her imprisonment or, best of all, in her superbly re-created meeting with Elizabeth I. Written in a blend of present and past tenses, this is a richly textured and cleverly structured story of a brave, wily and inspirational woman.