by Laura Beatty
Mia Morgan, in the middle of her life, is a woman under siege: by memories of her late lover, by the relationship with her blind father, and by a family secret she can't forget.
She is also accused of living in the past: her days are spent amid the life and letters of Lady Brilliana Harley, who lived nearly four hundred years ago during the English Civil War.
Brilliana Harley is a Puritan, a lone Roundhead in a county of Royalists, and it is not long before her enemies sit down in siege around her.
As cannon-shot rains down upon her castle, she alone must captain a garrison of men and defend her home.
Out of Brilliana's words emerges a woman of courage and conviction, a loving mother and capable wife, dutiful even under duress.
As Mia pieces her together, she finds that it is through Brilliana's life, so different and yet so similar, that she can come to understand her own.
Darkling is a revolutionary undertaking: an echoing of two lives across the centuries, deftly weaving original seventeenth-century documents into the fabric of a modern fiction.
The result is a book of voices, past and present, exquisitely observed and skilfully summoned.
- Format: Hardback
- Pages: 400 pages
- Publisher: Vintage Publishing
- Publication Date: 22/05/2014
- Category: Modern & contemporary fiction (post c 1945)
- ISBN: 9780701188283
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Review by Roseredlee
I abandoned Laura Beatty's debut novel "Pollard" but not without thinking that here was a fine writer, just not dealing here with a tempting plot for me (time is running out, I have to be very choosy what I read!). This book, however, has kept me entertained and away from the other books in the pile. Once more beautifully written, with wonderful descriptions of natural landscapes (the Herefordshire and Shropshire countryside from which I have just moved - I can vouch for the authenticity) and also of London. Beatty's sense of the history under our feet, the layers of lives that we walk upon, as it were, is acute. She takes a 'real' historical life - that of Brilliana Harley, and contrasts it with a presumably fictional present-day woman researching Brilliana's life. The Civil War, which she evokes very vividly, resonates just as powerfully in our time as differences of faith continue to breed anger and destruction, and Beatty uses it to meditate on the point of life and what makes it worth living. An excellent read.