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The Sin Eater Hardcover – March 14, 1998


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Moyer Bell; Stated First Edition edition (March 14, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1559212578
  • ISBN-13: 978-1559212571
  • Product Dimensions: 5.7 x 0.8 x 8.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #872,891 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Britain's not-quite-newly mobile social order is vividly portrayed in this comical tour de force by veteran writer Ellis. An old family in Wales has gathered at its manor house to attend the dying of the family patriarch, the Captain. Mischievous heroine Rose, the daughter of the local vet, is married to Henry, the eldest son and heir. Michael, the younger son, is married to conservative, snobbish Angela. A repressed younger sister, Ermyn, longs only to become a nun. Ellis's satire includes those belowstairs, too. Housekeeper Phyllis, once the mainstay of the great house, now divides her days between nursing the Captain and cooking treats for her plump grandson, Gomer, who does nothing at all. Phyllis's son, known in the family as Jack the Liar, gets drunk as often as possible and settles for idleness the rest of the time. A pet ewe named Virginia Woolf wanders about. The quaint village of Llanelys, where the family lives, sports modern signs of commerce in Welsh and English; these days, instead of raising sheep, the locals fleece tourists for a living. Ellis's hilarious narrative moves briskly, helped by prose that is precise and illustrative, without a wasted word. Anglophiles will love this book, more evidence from Booker short-lister Ellis (Fairy Tale) that the British have not lost the knack for self-mockery.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Review

'There is wit, sharp perception and ... a cutting edge of thought and words that had me grinning maliciously and guiltily' D. Tel. *'A brilliant first novel ... extravagantly good ... pays off scores that we all grudgingly feel need settling and sticks in her pins with all the delicacy of a sadistic acupuncturist' Scotsman *'Funny, upper-class, and decidedly original ... One of the most accurate portraits of contemporary British life that I have yet read' Evening Standard --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Customer Reviews

3.5 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Mary Whipple HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on May 18, 2004
Format: Paperback
The Anglo-Welsh patriarch of an old family is dying in Llanelys, and his children and their spouses gather at the estate to await the end. Rose, the Irish wife of the oldest son Henry, is the sensible mother of twins who has worked to restore the estate and its gardens, make it a home, and, through her cooking, provide a sense of family warmth. In sardonic contrast to her is Angela, the oh-so-upperclass wife of the second son Michael, who looks down on Rose and everyone else not of the family's "class" and breeding. Arriving sometime later is the only daughter, Ermyn, young, schoolgirlish, and disturbed. Severely repressed and often ignored, she looks for answers in exotic religious expression, and like the sin eater of Welsh legend, believes she can take upon herself the sins of the Captain and the family.
Ellis wields language like a rapier, skewering family members for their caste-conscious concern with their "blood," and showing with mordant humor their deliberate separation from the community. The family is changing, if Rose, daughter of an Irish veterinarian, is any indication, just as Llanelys, now a tourist destination, has changed. But though the family may deserve to be satirized for its meaningless rituals, the local population is not exempt from Ellis's dissection, either. Phyllis, the caretaker for the Captain, saves the best of the family's food to feed her fat grandson, and he steals liquor and makes lewd, sexual overtures to Rose and Ermyn. Other townspeople mock the family, show their rudeness, and even break their windows.
Stunning imagery, delicious turns of phrase, and lively dialogue make the narrative sparkle.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 8, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Ellis masterfully weaves the past and present together, exploring the power that story can have in a person's life. The Sin Eater, as one might expect is not the central focus of the novel, but a vehicle for healing. This novel is more about the healing power of story and of the past's effect on our present.
With its deep issues and intense emotion, this novel may not be appropriate for the young reader.
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17 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Stefanie N on May 3, 2001
Format: Paperback
As in her "The Inn at the Edge of the World" Ms. Ellis gives us a group of unlikeable people who dislike each other. They are a household of aristocrats living on an estate in a Welsh seaside village. Despite the hostility that exists among them they are allied against the working class who are in ascendance, and whom they view as upstarts. They also barely tolerate the summer tourists. The narrative is unified by anticipation of a patriarch's death and by an annual cricket match that has become an "us vs. them" event. Rose, who marries into the family is especially well-drawn. Her casual cruelty in word and deed is often breathtaking. For example, she serves fat-laden meals, redolent of cream and butter--killing with kindness. The final tragedy is unexpected yet the logical outcome of the cruelty and weakness that have gone on before.
My problem with the novel is that there seems to be no right way to behave according to Ellis. The sister-in-law who speaks charitably of the working class comes off as condescending. The household staff are drunk and sly. The patriarch is portrayed as amoral and domineering. As fine a word-weaver as she is, surely a writer of such intelligence could do more than expose the weaknesses of every character she creates.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful By KatPanama on May 3, 2004
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Read such a fascinating novel on my recent flights: Alice Thomas Ellis' "The Sin Eater." This was Ellis' first novel but you'd never know, so assured is it. Another entry in the "no characters to like" mode but I loved the book enormously. The Anglo-Welsh in decline, it's mordant, bitter, hysterically funny, wonderfully insightful and a bit of a thriller.
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