Tag Archives: historical fiction

Lydia: The Wild Girl of Pride and Prejudice by Natasha Farrant

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Lydia: The Wild Girl of Pride and Prejudice by Natasha Farrant, paperback novel, 352 pages, published by Chicken House in 2016.

Lydia is the youngest of the five Bennet sisters, living in rural England in the early 1800s. Their family is of the landed gentry, though not exceedingly wealthy. It was expected that girls would be demure, modest, controlled, and accomplished in a number of artistic or creative pursuits. Lydia is none of these things, and she makes no excuses. In Pride and Prejudice, Lydia is portrayed as frivolous, silly, and selfish, but there is always another side to any story, and this is Lydia’s.

Pride and Prejudice is one of my favourite novels. I know the story well, and have previously enjoyed other spin-off stories, so I was looking forward to reading this re-imagining of Lydia’s plight. I liked the story itself, and the way it was presented. It was cleverly built around the plot of the original story, with some new and exciting characters, bringing Lydia’s trip to Brighton alive.

Lydia: The Wild Girl of Pride and Prejudice is told through diary entries and letters, revealing Lydia’s innermost thoughts and feelings. She is a multi-faceted character who exhibits a certain persona to the world, but in her diary she is laid bare. Lydia is aware of how her sisters and parents view her behaviour, and even plays off these expectations to get what she wants. The restraints that society has placed upon her feel too constrictive and she must push the boundaries in order to retain her own self.

The author has built on the characters from the original story, transforming them into more complex beings. Lydia is portrayed in a more positive light in this story, still silly and impulsive, but we are privy to some of the reasoning behind her actions. I found her to be a much more likeable character. Even Wickham is slightly improved here!

Lydia: The Wild Girl of Pride and Prejudice could be read as a stand alone novel. However, I think that knowing the background of Pride and Prejudice allowed me to enjoy the story more thoroughly. I think of this story as complementary to the original, providing previously missing pieces to the puzzle that is Lydia and what occurred in Brighton. Of course, this is only one version of what may have happened, but that is the joy of fiction.

Suitable for upper primary and high school students, though if one were to read Pride and Prejudice first, probably later high school would be most appropriate.

 

 

 

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Witchborn by Nicholas Bowling

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Witchborn by Nicholas Bowling, novel, 325 pages, published by Chicken House in 2017.

It is 1577 in England; Queen Elizabeth sits upon the throne, Mary Queen of Scots is imprisoned for treason, London is filled with filthy streets and dubious characters, and witch-hunting is an active sport. In the little hamlet of Fordham, Alyce’s life is upturned when the hideous Mr Hopkins and his off-sider Caxton come to accuse her mother of witchcraft. Alyce is able to escape, but the witch finders are on her tail as she makes her way to London to deliver a letter to a man her mother said would help her. Her journey is not an easy one, but one that she does not have to make alone once she befriends a young actor, Solomon. As her powers swell uncontrollably, and the witch finders continue to hunt her, she can’t help but wonder, what is so important about her?

This was an interesting historical fiction, embellished with real witches capable of far more than healing herbs and mysterious incantations. I expected witchcraft, but not the historical aspect of the rivalry between Queen Elizabeth and Mary Stuart; I found this spin on history rather intriguing. The whole story was quite immersing, and flowed smoothly with good pace. It was a bit dark, with black magic and necromancy at play, with some violence and death, but that only added to the appeal. I did think that Alyce’s emerging power should have been more thoroughly explored.

I enjoyed falling into sixteenth century London, though I am glad I don’t have to live there! The description of the streets was so detailed, I could almost smell the stench of the markets, the foulness of unwashed bodies, and the murkiness of the Thames. It was not an appealing mix, but the sights of the Tower, the rickety shops and houses, the city gates, and the countryside beyond were much more enticing. The clothing and behaviour of the people matched the setting and time well, completing the scene expertly.

I connected more with Solomon than Alyce, despite feeling great sadness and pity for her situation. Solomon’s situation wasn’t a bunch of daffodils either, but he was less hardened by his experiences than Alyce seemed to be. I liked his amiable nature, and his occasional awkwardness; he was a good friend to Alyce before he even knew her well. Alyce was strong and determined, and sometimes wilful. They made a good pair. Many of the other characters were interesting too, though they were not as developed as Alyce and Solomon. I’m afraid that Caxton may visit my nightmares some nights… what a horrible beast.

Witchborn is suitable for upper primary and high school students. It is a good read for anyone who enjoys magic, witches and historical fantasy.

 

My Royal Story: Marie Antionette by Kathryn Lasky

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IMG_4172My Royal Story: Marie Antionette by Kathryn Lasky, historical fiction, 221 pages, first published by Scholastic Inc. in 2000, this edition published by Scholastic Ltd. in 2010.

Maria Antonia Josepha Johanna is the youngest daughter of the Empress and Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, and she is destined to become Marie Antionette, Queen of France. It is 1769, and the child Antonia is only thirteen, but she is soon expected to marry the dauphin of France, Louis Auguste, who will ascend the throne once his grandfather passes. Antonia must learn many things as she leaves her childhood and her home in Austria to evolve into Marie Antionette of France.

This diary style historical fiction is based on the teenage years of Marie Antionette, who ruled France with her husband, Louis XVI, in the late 1700s. It is a very interesting story told in first person diary entries beginning when Antonia is just thirteen. It explores her world as an Archduchess, and her transformation from child into adult, wife and future leader of France. So much is expected of her at such a young age. Her mother believes that her successful marriage to the dauphin of France will secure peace in Europe, and as such, Antonia has much responsibility and power resting upon her young shoulders. The extravagance of court and palace life is almost unimaginable, as is the strict etiquette and sheltered lifestyle these rulers lead. They are so far removed from those that they rule over, it is no wonder that revolution came to France.

An engaging story well executed, My Royal Story: Marie Antionette, is suitable for upper primary school students and older. This is a great way to introduce some history into your child’s life. By telling the story from Marie Antionette’s perspective as a teenager, it helps the young reader to identify and empathise with her. There were also some historical notes and family trees at the end of the story, explaining a little bit about the time period and what happened to Marie Antionette, Louis Auguste and their children. Using the story to spark interest in this part of history can be a springboard for exploring the life and death of Marie Antionette and the changes that descended upon France and Europe in the late eighteenth century more thoroughly.

My Royal Story: Marie Antionette is only one title in the My Royal Story series, and I am interested in reading more of these titles. History can be very dry, but I was pleased to find a book that makes discovering history fun and compels one to investigate the historical period and figures further.