As winner of the British Library Association Carnegie Medal for 1967 and the equally prestigious Guardian award the following year, The Owl Service is Garner's most celebrated novel. Many readers also consider it his best. It is a gripping story of three modem young people caught up in an ancient tragedy that refuses to die. The writing depends heavily on fast-moving dialogue to develop conflicts between the deep prehistoric past and the apparently shallow present, between generations and individuals, and between the characters' free will and their fate, which seems to be to helplessly retrace violent events of the past.
Although fantasy elements are present in the novel, they are not dominant. The Owl Service is an atmospheric novel of character with three main sources of interest: the Welsh countryside, which Garner presents with his unfailing gift for nature writing; the convincing sense of menace Garner manages to wring from ordinary events; and the deepening, irrational hostility between Roger, Alison, and Gwyn—the three fated to act out in the present the ancient love triangle of Welsh legend.
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