Thursday, 10 March 2016

Shadow on the Highway by Deborah Swift

A while ago I read Deborah Swift’s historical novel A Divided Inheritance  which is an historical fiction novel set in early 17th century, starting in London and moving on to Seville in Spain.

This book is set somewhat later in England, during the turbulent times of the English Civil War, in the middle of the 17th century. It is about the life and legend of Lady Katherine Fanshawe, rumoured to have been acting as a highway woman and also known as The Wicked Lady.

There are few facts known about Katherine Fanshawe but Deborah Swift has used what there is to create a touching story of her life. The story is told from Abigail Chaplin’s point of view. She is a deaf poor girl, who is employed as a maid in the castle. Nobody pays her any attention, since she is deaf, but she can read lips and gets hold of more information than she should. Katherine Fanshawe is living a troubled life in her castle, controlled by her step-father and his nephew whom she was forced to marry. Her only friend is Abigail and they bond in some kind of friendship which is not without problems. When the stepfather and husband go away to fight for the king, the local people, led by Abigail’s brother, starts to settle on land they think rightly belongs to them, and Katherine and Abigail get involved. Katherine dresses herself in her maid’s clothes and pretends to be a servant herself. There is also a rumour that there is a ’highway woman’ robbing the rich people.

It is an interesting time to write about, and Deborah Swift manages to visualise the times and customs, and makes it into a compelling story, including a twist in the end!

I received this book for free from Endeavour Press, since I have enrolled in The Endeavour Press Virtual Historical Festival which will take place from April 18 - 22. They offer a big variety of historical fiction for participants. During the week, if I have understood it correctly, several of the writers will be available for discussions and interviews. Being a fan of historical fiction, it sounds like an interesting event. I am looking forward to participate with other persons interested in historical fiction. 

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