Writer: Anna-Marie Crowhurst
Publishing House: Allen & Unwin
Date of Publication: May 3rd 2018
Rating: 5 stars
‘’On the fifteenth day of December in the year of our Lord 1664, a great light bloomed in the dark sky and crept slowly and silently across the blackness: a comet. The prating in the coffeehouses was of the evil the fiery star portended. Such astrological phenomena, it was known, brought war, famine, disease, fire and flood; the fall of kingdoms, the death of princes, mighty tempests, great frosts, cattle-plague and French pox.’’
1664. Born on the night of a comet, Ursula Flight has to keep up with a strange fate. She discovers the world and its secrets under the guidance of her beloved father and her craving for knowledge grows stronger, as does her love for theatre and stories. Her fervent imagination creates tales of clandestine affairs under the moonlight, her dreams of becoming an actress inspire her whole life. But soon the time comes for her to marry and her world is about to change. It is now that she will need all her strength.
‘’Ah yes, it is all writ above us’, he said. ‘My earth sign means I will always walk on the ground. Your mother is governed by the crab, and so she feels things deeply, though she may not speak them. Your centaur governs you and he is the archer. You shoot for far-off purposes, child. And one day you will strike home and true.’’
In an era when women’s education was seen as a cruse, we witness the story of a woman whose desire is to be independent, to stay true to herself. The hurdles she faces are many. From a cruel mother incapable of love to a new family that treats her like an insolent mare, Ursula finds comfort in the secrets of the stars, in stories and the fascinating world of Theatre. Anna-Marie Crowhurst creates a wonderful heroine and lightens a rather difficult subject with elegant humour as Ursula is struggling to find a silver lining in every situation. The narration flows through Ursula’s thoughts, diary entries, lists and letters, while crucial moments of her life are presenteδ as scenes from a play. Brilliant technique!
The rest of the characters are interesting, although nothing we have never seen before in other Historical Fiction novels, but what really makes the story exciting is the wonderful sense of setting. From the idyllic countryside of Ursula’s childhood, her isolation during her marriage, London’s alleys, the court and the playhouses. The dialogue is clear, vivid, faithful to the era and entertaining.
This novel is an exciting fest of the frivolity and all-around frenzy of the Restoration Era and a hymn to a woman’s unquenchable thirst for independence and expression.
‘’One thing I know is that there is no pleasure on this Earth better than reading. I have been transported to realms beyond my wildest imagining, to places I shall never see, for they are on the other side of the world, or do not exists at all. And I have been made to cry – and to laugh and to think and to be peaceful, and all this I have got from books.’’