This book starts in the present day when a widower finds an inscription in a graveyard dedicated to Julia Fawkes and wants to find out who she was. He visits a museum and finds out she was a writer.
We are then transported back to 1789 and witness a man burying a woman’s body.
Fast forward 3 years and we are introduced to the first person narrative that continues for the remainder of the book. Our protagonist is Lizzie, the daughter of Julia Fawkes and her first husband. Lizzie is married to John Diner Tredevant but she comes to discover that there is a mystery surrounding the death of his first wife.
Lizzie encounters tragedy when her mother dies giving birth to the child of her second husband. This thread was fascinating to read as the novel shows that women with brilliant minds were still subject to their husbands and their own biology.
The emotional rollercoaster of grief is interesting as perceived through an eighteenth century mindset. This is particularly poignant as the author Helen Dunmore died shortly after publishing this book so the legacy of women writers was an important topic for her to bring to the attention of the world.
I’ll be honest, I had completely forgotten that a body was buried at the start of the book. The ending of the book therefore came as a complete surprise to me!
The opening chapter set me up to expect that more of the plot would be in the present day. However the mystery of Julia Fawkes and her writings did make me go out and read more about her and the little we know. I love reading on my phone/Kindle but it is tricky to look back and find a specific point as you would flick through a paperback.
This book was excellent. The plot and characters were engaging and I loved finding out some of the history surrounding the French Revolution and the radicalisation of the time.
I read this book through my membership of Net Galley.