Author: Helen Dunmore
Published by: Atlantic Monthly Press on Aug. 1, 2017
Genres: Historical Fiction
Source: Publishers Group Canada
Book Rating: 7.5/10
It is 1792 and Europe is seized by political turmoil and violence. Lizzie Fawkes has grown up in Radical circles where each step of the French Revolution is followed with eager idealism. But she has recently married John Diner Tredevant, a property developer who is heavily invested in Bristol’s housing boom, and he has everything to lose from social upheaval and the prospect of war. Soon his plans for a magnificent terrace built above the two-hundred-foot drop of the Gorge come under threat. Tormented and striving Diner believes that Lizzie’s independent, questioning spirit must be coerced and subdued. She belongs to him: law and custom confirm it, and she must live as he wants–his passion for Lizzie darkening until she finds herself dangerously alone.
Weaving a deeply personal and moving story with a historical moment of critical and complex importance, Birdcage Walk is an unsettling and brilliantly tense drama of public and private violence, resistance and terror from one of our greatest storytellers.
Poignant, ominous, and remarkable descriptive!
Birdcage Walk takes us back to Bristol in the late 1790s when France was full of unrest, war was on the horizon, and the British people struggled with impoverishment, scarcity, impending disaster, and financial ruin.
The prose is expressive and raw. The main characters include the maternal, independent, supportive Lizzie and the jealous, iron-fisted, ruined Tredevant. And the plot, although a little slow in the middle, is laced from start to finish with an underlying feeling of despair and a real, palpable bleakness as the ongoing drama, social strife, economic uncertainty, marital tension, and increasing violence unravels.
I have to admit that even though Birdcage Walk is not my favourite novel by Dunmore, it is still a beautiful, haunting tale that highlights her talent of writing historical fiction that moves, informs, and leaves a lasting impression. The passing of Dunmore earlier this year is certainly a tremendous loss for the literary world and to quote from the inscription on the grave of her fictional character in this novel, “Her Words Remain Our Inheritance.”
If you haven’t had a chance to read my review for “The Lie” by Dunmore be sure to check it out here:
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Thank you to PGC Books & Grove Atlantic for providing me with a copy in exchange for an honest review.