Shortlisted for the Samuel Johnson Prize. In this extraordinary saga, Adrian Tinniswood draws on tens of thousands of letters, which survived by chance in an attic, to reveal the remarkable world of the Verneys, a family of Buckinghamshire gentry in the seventeenth century.
Here is Edmund Verney, Charles I's standard bearer at Edgehill, who died still clutching the King's standard, and his children: Ralph, whose support of the Parliamentarian cause during the Civil War forced him into exile; Mun, a professional soldier who survived Cromwell's attack on Drogheda in 1649, only to be stabbed to death two days later; Mall, who fell pregnant out of wedlock, and Bess, who ran off with a clergyman.
There was also Henry, who was obsessed with horse-racing; Cary, who gambled away a fortune, and Tom, a devout Christian and a petty crook.
The next generation led equally exciting lives. Ralph's son Jack went to Syria and made a fortune. Cousin Pen stayed at home and slept with her sister's fiance.
Cousin Dick was hanged at Tyburn. Jack's brother Edmund married a girl who was rich, beautiful and deeply in love with him and within months of the marriage, she lost her mind. The Verneys is narrative history at its very best - fascinating, surprising, enthralling.