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London in Chains, Gillian Bradshaw

2010/05/11

In her latest historical fiction novel, Gillian Bradshaw explores the English Civil War through the eyes of a young farmgirl named Lucy Wentor. Having been assaulted by soldiers and tired of being a constant reminder to her family of their failure to protect her, Lucy travels to London where she hopes to take shelter with her wealthy uncle and aunt. However, her uncle’s finances have been strained and destroyed by the war, and her aunt makes it clear that the household has no room for charity. In an attempt to earn her keep, Lucy finds herself stitching pamphlets for an underground printer, and soon becomes engrossed in the printing process and the ideas they print.

Bradshaw is well known for her meticulously researched and descriptive historical fiction, and this is a prime example. The opening chapter paints a bleak, gritty, gloomy picture of the London which greets Lucy, yet she still finds it new and exhilarating. Bradshaw’s characters provoke emotion, especially Lucy’s aunt Agnes, a bitter and angry woman mourning the loss of her children. My personal ignorance of the English Civil War made it a bit of a challenge to understand the various historical players and events in the novel, but this is no fault of the author or her writing.

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