An historical novel about the life of Cecily Neville, Duchess of York (1415 – 1495), this is an impressive and well-researched debut. The novel spans about 30 years of Cecily’s life, from the early years of her marriage to Richard of York (aka Richard Plantagenet, the same Richard of York who gave battle in vain) to her son Edward IV ascending the English throne.
The novel is narrated in the third person but it keeps close to Cecily throughout, as you might expect from the book’s title. I enjoyed the sparse writing style, which is detailed enough to give a sense of place and atmosphere without becoming bogged down in unnecessary descriptions. The pace is quite fast, as the novel skips through the main events of her life over some very turbulent decades in British history. Cecily herself is an ambitious, strong and hot-tempered character, more admirable than likeable. A few of the other characters, the recurring ones, are also well-rendered but others are merely sketched. I think this is probably inevitable when dealing with so much history because there’s no need to become invested in everyone.
I always find the history of the Hundred Years’ War and the Wars of the Roses confusing, as they are complex to understand and it’s not helped that everyone had similar names or were known by their titles or the houses they were of. I hadn’t read about Cecily before – I preferred not to have spoilers, even though that sounds silly when we’re talking about things that happened hundreds of years ago – but I think I would have found it helpful to have some background before reading the novel, to reduce my confusion just a little, as the book does not explain that much. If you intend to read this book, I suggest you do some research first, unless you’re already knowledgeable.
Recommended if you wish to see an extraordinary and powerful woman – who nearly became a queen consort – brought to life.
Thank you to the publisher Viking for the advance copy via NetGalley. The book will be published on 29th July.
Thanks for reading, everyone. From the 23rd, I will be away from my blog while maintenance takes place. I’ll be back in a few days. See you soon 🙂