|(Thank you to Other Press for providing me with a copy of this book!)
The New York Times bestselling author of The Glass Room brings a slice of his own family history to life through extensive research and rich storytelling.
Beginning with his great-great-grandfather Abraham Block, acclaimed novelist Simon Mawer sifts through evidence like an archaeologist, piecing together the stories of his ancestors. Illiterate and lacking opportunity in the bleak Suffolk village where his parents worked as agricultural laborers, Abraham leaves home at fifteen, in 1847. He signs away the next five years in an indenture aboard a ship, which will circuitously lead him to London and well beyond, to far-flung ports on the Mediterranean and the Black Sea. In London he crosses paths with Naomi Lulham, a young seamstress likewise seeking a better life in the city, with all its prospects and temptations.
Another branch of the family tree comes together in 1847, in Manchester, as soldier George Mawer weds his Irish bride Ann Scanlon—Annie—before embarking with his regiment. When he is called to fight in the Crimean War, Annie must fend for herself and her children on a meager income, navigating an often hostile world as a woman alone.
With a keen eye and a nuanced consideration of the limits of what we can know about the past, Mawer paints a compelling, intimate portrait of life in the nineteenth century.
Wow! What a fascinating story - historical fiction with biographical elements spun throughout. I just loved getting to know Mawer's family and life in the nineteenth century. Talk about creative history.
I thought it was such a clever idea to dig through his family's past and write their story by coloring in the parts that were missing or adding to them, in order to provide a clear and realistic picture of what their lives were like in the past. It all made for such a thoughtful story. We read about the role of women during the Victorian era and what military life was like for the soldiers. We get to learn about people who had no voice, no agency at that time and it is thrilling to see them in full - who they were, what they did, and how they felt. Mawer writes about them all with care, authenticity, and respect. You could feel his love and compassion for his family dripping off the pages. I just loved it!
Ancestry is most definitely a must-read! I would happily recommend it to anyone and everyone looking for their next great read - you are going to fall in deep! Make sure to check it out!
Thank you to the Other Press for providing me with a copy of this book!