Monday, 3 September 2018

The Woman in the Shadows by Carol McGrath - Book Review and Blog Tour

Branches of rosemary slid from Tom Williams' funeral bier, scattering around the mourners feet to be trampled into the tiles of the church nave, releasing the scent of remembrance.

Next time if there is a marriage, it will be one of my own choosing.

When beautiful cloth merchant's daughter, Elizabeth Williams, is widowed at the age of twenty-two, she is determined to make herself a success in the business she has learned from her father. But there are those who oppose a woman making her own way in the world, and soon Elizabeth realises she may have some powerful enemies - who know the truth about her late husband.

Security - and happiness - comes when Elizabeth is introduced to the kind and ambitious merchant, Thomas Cromwell. Their marriage is one based on mutual love and respect, but it isn't always easy being the wife of an influential, headstrong man in Henry VIII's London.

The city is filled with ruthless people and strange delights - and Elizabeth realises she must adjust to the life she has chosen, or risk losing everything.

If there is one type of book that I really enjoy reading, whether it is fiction or non-fiction, it is those that are about the women who were behind powerful men. This is one such book and had everything I need in a historical novel.

The period detail is precise and clearly well researched, as evidenced in the bibliography in the back of the book. I felt thoroughly immersed in Tudor England with all the details of attitudes to daily life. Our views of birth, marriage and death and the ritual around those events in particular, have come a long way since the sixteenth century when the book is set.

Written in the first person narrative we get to know Elizabeth's character very well. She takes us through the past and present of her life in a non-chronological order. However, each section is dated and there is no confusion as we hop back and forth through this narrative.

Even though I knew a reasonable amount about Thomas Cromwell (and in case you are wondering, this book is nothing like Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall) this was a really interesting take on the people that surrounded him. Mostly, they are based on actual people but the author does not try to pretend that the stories that she has written about them are anything but fictional. However, she makes great usage of the facts that are available to weave them into believable and engaging characters.

Although set in the past the book still feels very current. The issues that Elizabeth confronts in her daily life still have some resonance to the modern reader.

Anyone who enjoys historical fiction, especially the Tudor period will enjoy reading this book. I highly recommend it.

ISBN: 978 1786152299

Publisher: Accent Press

About the Author:

Carol McGrath taught History and English for many years. When left teaching to work on an MA in Creative Writing from Queens University, Belfast, then an MPhil in English at Royal Holloway, London, where she developed her exprtise on the Middle Ages.

Her debut novel, The Handfasted Wife was published by Accent Press in May 2013. The Swan Daughter and The Betrothed Sister followed in 2014 and 2015.

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