Georgina Harding’s four previous novels – The Solitude of Thomas Cave, The Spy Game, Painter of Silence and The Gun Room – have all explored, in different territories, what trauma does to the psyche. Land of the Living is no exception. The Second World War has ended and a young British officer, Charlie Ashe, has returned to England to marry Claire. His experiences as a soldier in the Battle of Kohima – one of Britain’s bloodiest battles – and the subsequent months he spent lost in the jungles of Assam, are now firmly in the past.
Imogen Hermes Gowar's historical romp, The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock was only published a fortnight ago but is already riding high in the bestseller list. I'll be talking about the book with Imogen at Waterstones Gower Street on Monday 5th March. Over a glass of wine, we'll also discuss the irresistible appeal of historical romps. Drinks are served from 6.30pm. Tickets available via the link below. All tickets, hallelujah, include wine.
Before Imogen Hermes Gowar was a writer, she worked at visitor services for the British Museum. There she came across a rare and hideous artefact, a mummified monkey stitched to the tail of a fish. Fascinated, she plunged into the story that became her first novel, The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock. Thanks to a feckless captain, Jonah Hancock -- a merchant -- loses a ship but finds himself apparently in possession of a mermaid. Gowar wickedly evokes the brothels and coffee shops of Georgian London, abuzz with talk of this extraordinary creature.
Jane Harris’s novels often focus on the disenfranchised: a maid in The Observations, a woman reduced by spinsterhood in the Victorian era in Gillespie and I, and now, a young slave in this third novel. Disenfranchised they may be, but her protagonists don’t lack agency. The narrator of Sugar Money is Lucien, a slave who is barely in his teens and whose voice is startlingly optimistic. In Martinique in 1765, Lucien and his older brother, Emile, are tasked by their French master with returning to Grenada — where they once lived — and smuggling back 42 slaves who are living under the rule of English invaders at a hospital plantation in Fort Royal.