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This book defies categorisation. It's a history, it's a novel, almost it's a kind of
archaeology, an investigation into the reality of the past and an exploration of that
uncertain borderland which lies between fact and fiction. Using archive material Mawer
has picked through the traces left behind by his mid-nineteenth-century ancestors to find
out how they might have been and what might have happened to them. There were few
artefacts - a funeral notice, a Crimean War campaign medal - handed down through the
generations because these men and women possessed so little, no diaries or letters
largely because they were illiterate. In fact there is nothing much to show that they were
once alive beyond those traces that are common to all families: entries in registers of
birth, marriage and death, census data and occasional hints in newspapers.

Yet this is no dry history. While taking care never to step outside the bounds of historical
evidence, Mawer has put flesh and blood on the bare bones, employing the skills of a
novelist to reconstruct long-dead ancestors and give them voice. The result is gripping
and heart-breaking, imbued with the vitality of Dickensian London, the atmosphere of
seafaring in the days when sail was just beginning to give way to steam, and the terror of
trench warfare in the Crimea. There is love, both open and legal but also hidden and illicit.
Above all there is the bloody-minded courage of the women who, as their men fell by the
wayside, carried the family forward from Victorian revolution into the twentieth century.


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Manufacturer/Publisher: Abacus
Binding: Paperback
Author: Simon Mawer
Date Published: 2023
Pagination: 432p

SKU: 9780349144979