Cecily by Annie Garthwaite
Some of you that have been around these parts for a while will know that historical Tudor fiction is an absolute go to genre and that I pray daily at the alter of Hilary Mantel. The trilogy truly changed me as a reader, the characters remain my friends, their words still giving me counsel (Arrange your face). The only historical fiction title that has come close is Hamnet, which moved my very soul.
When Cecily, “an epic feminist retelling of the war of roses” was released to large fanfare last year, it was lauded as a female Cromwell, rivalling Wolf Hall, with the author compared to Mantel throughout the press. Sent to us by @vikingbooks before publication, I took one look at the press release and didn’t believe the hype. Today I publically apologise to @anniegarthwaite and Viking colleagues because it took my breath away, I was genuinely emotional after reading in one glorious sitting a few days ago.
Cecily Neville was the Duchess of York, matriarch of Kings, great grandmother to Henry VIII and this is her story, delicately and brilliantly imagined with meticulous research that doesn’t oversaturate the plot. The characters are layered and brought to life as are the time and places – I could hear the clarion call to arms.
It is a very skilled writer able to take a well known story and still create tension. Within a matter of pages, the wit and political strategy of Cecily had me gripped. I can see why it is compared to Mantel but it is very different. The pace is propulsive, like an ancient Game of Thrones, but it’s true prowess lies in demonstrating the critical role an overlooked female figure played, changing the course of History forever, juxtaposed with the lack of autonomy many women faced.
This doesn’t feel like a debut – it is masterful, slick, dramatic, clever, caustic, vivid and powerful. I loved every single word and frantically searched online for whether a sequel was planned (please @anniegarthwaite ?!). Now out in paperback, (yes why did I wait to so long, yes I am embarrassed), I cannot recommend this highly enough ~ Chaya
Order your copy of Cecily here.