Stacia Brown on Accidents of Providence
Accidents of Providence had its beginnings in a Thanksgiving dinner argument. I had accepted an invitation to a turkey potluck at a friend’s house, and one of the guests, a psychologist, learned that I liked historical fiction. Immediately she urged me to quit the habit. She swore that any fictional attempt to depict a working-class seventeenth-century woman was doomed to failure because women of that era did not have inner lives, did not have time to contemplate their world, did not have the luxury to be complicated. They were too busy being chattel, this psychologist said, too busy eking out a bare-bones living. I disagreed, but she won the argument. Frustration turned to determination, and soon I found myself starting work on a story about ordinary tradeswomen possessed of extraordinary courage who lived and worked in London during the civil wars.
About halfway through my second or third draft of the novel I realized I could not imagine the interior world of Rachel Lockyer, my main character, without also exploring the exterior landscape of women’s friendships. Accidents of Providence is a love story, but it is also, or even primarily, a story about relationships between women. What are the ethics of female friendship? Of motherhood? Are we called to hold our closest friends morally accountable? Or should we simply stand by each other’s side when things fall apart? What happens when our best friends fail us?
As an exploration of women’s friendships, Accidents of Providence also grapples with the telling and the keeping of secrets. Today we live in such a tell-all, confessional society that we have almost forgotten what it feels like to stay silent, to ponder something difficult or personal in private. Accidents of Providence tries to explore what is both gained and lost when a woman chooses to remain silent, chooses not to speak, at the critical moment.
"Dangerous Liaisons: A 17th century heroine for our times...[A] delightfully seditious heroine...Brown introduces a wonderful cast of supporting characters.... For all its period detail, this debut seems remarkably modern in its depiction of love and politics—proof that a historical novel can be educational and entertaining, and nothing like homework."
—O, The Oprah Magazine
"A heart-poundingly vivid, intellectually provocative account. . . A romping good read that is character-driven yet intellectually provocative on issues of law, religion and morality—historical fiction at its best."
, STARRED review "Debut novelist Brown has woven an absorbing tale...her story reveals a rich knowledge of the era with memorable characters, sharp, period-worthy dialog, and a poignant love story...This is the best kind of historical fiction—a combination of love story and murder mystery, wtih a sprinkling of intriguing historical snippets and wonderful writing."
, STARRED review "Intelligent, masterful, suspenseful—one of the best books I've read in years. An impressive debut novel from a hugely talented new writer, Accidents of Providence
was a rare treat."
—Margaret George, author of many works of historical fiction, including Mary Queen of Scotland and the Isles
"With this marvelous story written in searing prose, Stacia Brown brings us a deeply human, super-smart, uncommonly well-researched historical novel. Accidents of Providence
tackles hypocrisy, both sexual and political, and invites us into the revolutionary taverns and chaotic courtrooms of civil-war-torn London, introducing us to the faithful and adulterous, the idealists and opportunists, of an era not so unlike our own. Don't miss it!"
—Sheri Holman, author of The Dress Lodger
, among others "Stacia Brown's debut novel, Accidents of Providence
, richly illuminates an important but little known period of history: that of the English Leveller society. Wonderfully detailed and keenly researched, it is a moving portrait of a courageous woman caught between a disastrous affair with a charismatic revolutionary and the draconian laws of the land that would put her to death because of it."
—Kathleen Kent, author of The Heretic's Daughter
"Accidents of Providence
is historical fiction at its best. It is absolutely steeped in atmosphere and so vividly re-creates the interregnum era that I felt as though I'd been transported there. Brown's prose has a beautiful originality. Her characters come alive with authenticity and humanity; they are loveable and infuriating, but the reader always believes in them, and invests hopes and fears with them. The story kept me gripped from the very first page—by turns desperately sad, funny, and heartwarming. It is a breath of fresh air. I loved it!"
—Katherine Webb, author of The Legacy
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