Dawnlands by Philippa Gregory

In a divided country, power and loyalty conquer all…

It is 1685 and England is on the brink of a renewed civil war against the Stuart kings with many families bitterly divided. Alinor, now a successful businesswoman, has been coaxed by the manipulative Livia to save Queen Mary from the coming siege. The rewards are life-changing: the family could return to their beloved Tidelands, and Alinor could rule where she was once lower than a servant.

Inspired by news of a rebellion against the Stuart kings, Ned Ferryman returns from America with his Pokanoket servant to join the uprising against roman catholic King James. As Ned swears loyalty to the charismatic Duke of Monmouth, he discovers a new and unexpected love

Meanwhile, Queen Mary summons her friend Livia to a terrified court. Her survival, and that of the Stuart kings, is in the balance, and only a clever and dangerous gamble can save them…

A compelling and powerful story of political intrigue and personal ambition, set between the palaces of London, the tidelands of Fowlmire and the shores of Barbados.

Review

When picking up a Philippa Gregory novel you know you are going to be guaranteed a thrilling story, beautifully researched and inhabited by a cast of characters that feel so real, you could walk into their world, becoming part of their story.  It is no mean feat given the phalera of books set in this period, to be able to stand above the crowd as Dawnlands does, because it is written by an experienced storyteller who knows how to deliver a first class read, an intelligent story that had me gripped throughout. 

Within it we have a group of characters, both men and women who haven’t been altered to fit modern conceptions but reflect their world and its attitudes, as well as its social norms. From the King and his failed attempt to return his country to the ‘true faith’, to his Queen, her lady in waiting and a runaway slave. She elevates the women, so the story revolves around them, including the charismatic Livia, whose machinations behind the scenes, reflect the way women had to learn to circumvent the control of men, to get their own way.  She is for me the most compelling character in the book, ruthless in her search for power and wealth, because for her and many other women, the only way to avoid destitution was to take what she needed. As a character she is a masterpiece, her actions are cruel, she manipulates those around her and yet, I can understand why she acts as she does, even if I dislike her behavior. She stands out as a woman whose charisma and intelligence, makes her a character that can hold a novel, just as well as a ‘strong male lead’ and frankly, her manipulation of those around her, proves that you don’t need a traditional male ‘villain’. Other fabulous characters are found within the pages of Dawnlands. This evocative portrayal of women in the 17th Century contains characters both bad and good, given it a feeling of an ensemble cast, with more than one lead. Including the proud runaway native American Indian Raven, who acts a counterpoint to Livia. For she is loyal, yet they share some characteristics, the difference being that Raven uses her intelligence to help those she cares for, her pride to stop the actions of men from killing her and her determination to survive, not at a cost to others as Livia does, but to find that which others stole from her.

The narrative takes us from the coast of America to England and Barbados and yet it still feels like an intimate story of a group of characters, rather than an epic where story is swamped by location. We are drawn to the wharves of London and its burgeoning trade with the world opening up around them and where we meet Alinor, finding ourselves drawn into their world of trade and survival, running from a past full of poverty. Then in the next moment, we are in the court of the King, where religion and the succession dominate a court riven with secrets and terrible jealousies, where love comes at a cost and the fate of the kingdom resides. The excitement for the reader, coming from never knowing if the characters they have come to love, will survive a world, once again torn apart by religion and a people hungry to be free from the control of Rome once again. It is the beginning of a saga, and I can’t wait to see what comes next.

You can buy this novel from Waterstones, Amazon and all good independent bookshops.

About the author.

PHILIPPA GREGORY is one of the world’s foremost historical novelists. She wrote her first ever novel, Wideacre, when she was completing her PhD in eighteenth-century literature and it sold worldwide, heralding a new era for historical fiction.    Her flair for blending history and imagination developed into a signature style and Philippa went on to write many bestselling novels, including The Other Boleyn Girl and The White Queen.    Now a recognised authority on women’s history, Philippa graduated from the University of Sussex and received a PhD from the University of Edinburgh, where she is a Regent and was made Alumna of the Year in 2009. She holds honorary degrees from Teesside University and the University of Sussex. She is a fellow of the Universities of Sussex and Cardiff and an honorary research fellow at Birkbeck University of London.  Philippa is a member of the Society of Authors and in 2016 was presented with the Outstanding Contribution to Historical Fiction Award by the Historical Writers’ Association. In 2018, she was awarded an Honorary Platinum Award by Neilsen for achieving significant lifetime sales across her entire book output.   She welcomes visitors to her site http://www.PhilippaGregory.com.

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