It’s a real privilege to begin a blog tour and I’m thrilled to commence the tour for Cecily by Annie Garthwaite. My enormous thanks to Georgia Taylor at Penguin Random House for inviting me to participate and for sending me a copy of Cecily in return for an honest review. I love historical fiction and am delighted to share that review today.
Cecily is published by Penguin today, 29th July 2021, and is available for purchase through the links here.
The word is a spark. They can start a fire with it, or smother it in their fingertips.
She chooses to start a fire.
You are born high, but marry a traitor’s son. You bear him twelve children, carry his cause and bury his past.
You play the game, against enemies who wish you ashes. Slowly, you rise.
You are Cecily.
But when the king who governs you proves unfit, what then?
Loyalty or treason – death may follow both. The board is set. Time to make your first move.
Told through the eyes of its greatest unknown protagonist, this astonishing debut plunges you into the closed bedchambers and bloody battlefields of the first days of the Wars of the Roses, a war as women fight it.
My Review of Cecily
Cecily Neville has ambitions.
What a cracking historical fiction Cecily is. It’s quite difficult to believe Cecily is a debut novel because it’s written so compellingly. Annie Garthwaite has taken a little explored character from history and created a vivid, portrait of a woman at the heart of political life. Cecily leaps from the page as a real woman, flawed, ambitious, loyal, duplicitous, strong and vulnerable. I thoroughly enjoyed meeting her. It was the characterisation in Cecily that really captivated me. I so appreciated having a fresh female perspective on a well-known historical period.
Aspects of the plot are familiar to those who enjoy this era (and given that I grew up in the next village to Fotheringhay where my parents were married, I loved the references to it) but Annie Garthwaite gives them a vibrant innovative presentation that enhances history and truly brings it to life. She weaves in back stories and relationships so that the scene is clearly set, ensuring her reader has a thorough understanding of the social and political times, without ever slowing the pace or providing too much extraneous detail. I thought the balance was excellent and was transported back in time brilliantly.
I think the immediacy and pace in Cecily is enhanced by the continuous present tense because it makes the book feel as if it is happening now rather than several hundred years ago. That said, the narrative style and authorial voice fits the era perfectly giving an added layer of authenticity. Add in the iterative image of strategic chess that runs through the book and Cecily becomes a narrative treat of intrigue, manipulation and politics at international, national, local and personal level. Here we get insight into the world of real people. However, regardless of the obviously exemplary historical research that makes Cecily authentic and engaging, this book has as many twists and turns as any psychological thriller or crime fiction, making it appealing to a wide range of readers and a captivating read. The frequent short sentence hooks at the end of chapters compel the reader to continue and I found I had consumed the story almost without realising.
With vivid characterisation, carefully crafted writing and meticulous research, Cecily is a satisfying read for any lover of historical fiction. But what gives Annie Garthwaite’s Cecily the edge is the feminism; the insight into, and the appreciation of, a strong woman in a world of men. Cecily may have been a woman of her time, but Annie Garthwaite makes sure she has resonance and relevance in today’s society. Great stuff!
About Annie Garthwaite
Annie Garthwaite grew up in a working-class community in the north-east of England. She studied English at the University of Wales before embarking on a thirty-year international business career. In 2017 she returned to her first love, books, and set out to write the story of a woman she had always felt drawn to: Cecily Neville. This became her debut novel, Cecily.#
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