Helen Dunmore

Birdcage Walk – Helen Dunmore

Title – Birdcage Walk

Author – Helen Dunmore

Published – 2017

Genre – Historical fiction

I loved Exposure so much that I treated myself to a copy of Birdcage Walk (admittedly when it came out in paperback rather than hardback). It’s made more difficult to review as Helen Dunmore died before the paperback publication of Birdcage Walk.

I was captivated and intrigued by the opening of the book. A middle-aged widower and his dog walk along Birdcage Walk and the dog discovers a hidden and somewhat ambiguous stone memorial. Intrigued the man eventually has the opportunity to quiz a local historian about the names on the stone. Stored in the archives are papers written by one of the people mentioned on the stone and these papers offer a fragment of information, with the documents dating back to the time of the French Revolution.

So far so good, the introduction was beautifully written and I was hooked. Then it all went downhill. The book moves to Bristol in 1789 and concerns the story of a family following the events of the French Revolution and their somewhat peripheral involvement in matters across The Channel.

Lizzie has been raised among radicals, her mother, Julia, who was widowed when Lizzie was an infant, is a fervent supporter of women’s rights, while her stepfather pens rousing republican pamphlets. Lizzie’s husband is a different kettle of fish, a practical man who lacks interest in idealism and who is more concerned about the impact of the upheaval on his business interests.

There is a mysterious burial and some skulduggery but I never really liked or connected with any of the characters and I found the story tedious. There were some odd parallels with The New Mrs Clifton  in terms of location, property development etc.

I persevered to the end but it felt like a chore. And the final disappointment for me was that the book wasn’t rounded off by the reappearance of the contemporary character with which it had opened.

1star1star1star

 

Advertisements

Exposure – Helen Dunmore

91qtjDrIqsLTitle – Exposure

Author – Helen Dunmore

Published – January 2016

Genre – Historical fiction

This is one of those situations where I don’t have much to say about this book for a review but that’s because I loved it so much; it’s a simple story beautifully told.

The story is set in 1960s London, a time of Cold War spies and the accompanying sensational headlines. The main characters are husband and wife, Simon and Lily, and Giles – Simon’s colleague and old university friend. All of them have something to hide. When Giles suffers an accident he calls on Simon to help him and sets in train a series of events which affects them all. While this is a story of espionage and has its fair share of tension it’s told in an understated way – focussing on the characters and their domestic lives rather than thrills.

Lily is at the heart of the story and what a marvellous character she is. Shaped by her experience as a child she is strong, reserved, determined and pragmatic. She puts her family first and has an unwavering faith in her husband. I could have read on and on about her!

The title is well chosen, there are multiple levels of potential ‘exposure’ in the story and the fear of it drives the plot. A change of pace from conventional spy thrillers this was a real treat to read.

I read this as a Net Galley.

1star1star1star1star1star