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By Love Divided: The Lydiard Chronicles 1630-1646 Kindle Edition
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I have a special fascination with the 17th century and over the years I have read numerous fictional accounts of the deep wounds inflicted by the English Civil War. What makes By Love Divided special is that it is not a fictional account. It is based on the author’s research into the past of her own ancestors, one family among the many who found themselves torn apart by the savagery of civil war.
Ms St John imbues her characters with life and opinion, she presents us with excellent portraits of these long dead people and even better, she excels at not letting what she knows of their future fates colour her narrative. Chapter by chapter, she pulls the reader into the political complexities of the times, where men of high birth and rank are as likely to support Parliament as their king, where the king himself bears the lion’s share of the responsibility for the calamities his actions release upon his kingdom.
I have always believed King Charles to have been singularly tone deaf to the pleadings of the more moderate of his courtiers. Convinced he ruled by divine right, Charles early on did away with Parliament, thereby inadvertently steering his kingdom down the path that would end with war, bloodshed, terrible suffering and uncountable deaths. Ms St John has this slight king dance in and out of her narrative, always solemnly convinced he—and only he—knows what is best for his subjects.
Written in a beautiful, at times poetic prose, Ms St John weaves descriptions of landscape, of seasons and flowers into her narrative. 17th century London and Oxford are beautifully presented, we hear church bells ring out the hours, are guided expertly through the recreated Whitehall palace, all the way from the black and white tiled floor to the lavishness of its decorations, its priceless art treasures. We watch at close range as people are wounded, as people suffer and die. We watch them love, we hear the laugh and cry. An engrossing read, By Love Divided proved quite impossible to put down and I am already looking forward to the next volume in this series.
I did read her first book The Lady of the Tower, and I found the story compelling and I was glad to see it continued here. For me, as a reader, if I cannot believe the characters’ emotions, drives, and failings, it doesn’t matter how accurate the history is I’m not engaged. I’m impressed with this author who has managed to do the deep and important research into this very volatile time in England and bring to life with grace and power her relatives and their struggles. This is an intellectually interesting and emotionally moving portrayal of people in their time. I'd recommend.
By Love Divided takes us through the early rumblings of political unrest in England, starting in 1630, several years before King Charles’s Scottish Wars through the end of the first English Civil War in 1646. We are reintroduced to a widowed Lucy Apsley as she tries to secure a future for her teenage children. While the initial focus of the novel starts with Lucy, it brilliantly shifts to her daughter Luce Hutchinson (a historical diarist who recorded her Parliamentarian husband’s actions during the war) and her son Allen (who supported the King). I worried first for Lucy and wanted to see her children set up for success, then I quickly grew to care about Luce and Allen as they matured and settled in their life’s path. By the time the war breaks out and the family is divided I was fully invested. The author should be applauded for portraying the war in all its heartbreaking tragedy, and she does not shy away from exploring the emotional ravages of war.
If you want a compelling, exquisitely written story to immerse you in the past, By Love Divided is a must read! I consider it one of my favourite historical reads and it's earned a place on my keeper shelf! 5 plus stars!
Most recent customer reviews
This novel is the sequel to The Lady of the Tower, which I haven’t read yet.Read more