Into this breach has stepped Eleanor Fairburn with The Golden Hive, an absorbing novel in every sense of the word. With her Irish background, her deep and emotional interest in Celtic history, her wide reading of printed material, and, above all, her neat balance between historical exactitude and verisimilitude, she has recreated most colourfully the contemporary scene with its passions, ambitions and inhumanities. In one respect, Eleanor Fairburn has definitely parted with the traditional and, perhaps, restricted status of Nest. To treat her as the hapless daughter of a vanquished Welsh prince, with nothing to recommend her but her good looks, might legitimately have entitled Nest to little more than a supernumerary role. The author has cast for her an exhilarating career which takes her out of her Welsh tribal environment, first to the civilizing atmosphere of a well-disciplined nunnery patronized by the highest circles, from there into the splendour and intrigues of Norman aristocratic society, and, finally, into the tensions of Norman- French rivalries. The transformation is almost complete. What emerges is a well-groomed, refined Normanized lady, not entirely denuded of Welsh sympathies, it is true, but with her inmost thoughts and irrepressible passions revolving within the orbit of her associations, intimate and otherwise, with the king of England and his Norman nobility. Even the escapade with Owain ap Cadwgan, the one adventure which set the seal of her reputation as an irresistibly beautiful woman in Welsh historical lore, is made subordinate to this pattern, and Welsh readers may well ask why this should be so. Conjecturally, the answer may lie not only in the creation of a heroine worthy of the name and endowed with those attributes which would place her on a parity with the other notable personages who enliven this dramatic representation of events in twelfth-century England and Normandy. It may also lie in the author's Irish affection and partiality for Nest as the progenitor of that turbulent Cambro-Norman family of the FitzGeralds, whose territorial ambitions drove them across the sea to conquer Ireland and eventually become the champions of Irish indepen- dence against the encroachment of later English kings. The history of the Geraldines, says Eleanor Fairburn, 'is the history of Ireland, but without the compelling loveliness of one woman, Nesta of Deheubarth, it might all have happened differently, less tragically perhaps, but less beautifully'. This novel is a powerful story of what one gifted writer has conceived to be the triumph and tribulations of that one woman, who will always remain in her countrymen's memory as the Helen of Wales. GERAINT DYFNALLT OWEN. London.