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Madwoman in the Attic #12 Laetitia Pilkington

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Laetitia Pilkington was born Laetitia Van Lewen in Dublin in 1709, the daughter of John Van Lewen who became president of the College of Physicians. She married a Church of Ireland priest Matthew Pilkington and through him was introduced to Jonathan Swift. Swift was a good friend to them and encouraged both of them in their writing of poetry. He also secured a position for Matthew as chaplain to the Lord Mayor of London. Laetitia arrived in London after her husband had settled and found him caught up in a affair with a Drury Lane actress. She quickly became mixed up in literary circles including the noted wit and libertine James Worsdale and the satirist Henry Carey. When her husband was arrested in a political scandal they returned to Ireland. The following year it was Laetitia who was caught up in a scandal. Matthew found her alone in her bedroom with Robert Adair; a surgeon and the Pilkington's divorce was acrimonious and costly, reducing Laetitia to poverty.  She lost all stan…

Madwoman in the Attic #11 Anna Doyle Wheeler

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Born in Clonbeg, Co. Tipperary in 1785, daughter of a Protestant Archbishop, Anna Doyle was educated at home and married at sixteen. Her marriage to Francis Massey Wheeler was unhappy and she left after twelve years, taking her two surviving children; Rosina and Harriet. Anna had taken refuge in reading during her marriage, she studied many French Philosophers and Mary Wollstonecraft's feminist works. After moving to London she became part of a circle of writers and philosophers including Robert Owen, John Stuart Mill and Frances Wright. Anna sent her daughter Rosina to be educated at Mrs Rowden's school in Kensington. Anna moved to France in the 1820s where she met Charles Fourier and began to translate his works into English. She becomes a contributor to Tribune de Femme a journal established by working class women. She also collaborated with William Thompson on his book Appeal of One Half of the Human Race (1825)she also wrote The Rights of Women (1830)and Letter from Vlast…

Madwoman in the Attic #10 Rosina Bulwer Lyttton

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Rosina Bulwer Lytton was born Rosina Doyle Wheeler on November 4th 1802 in Co Limerick. Her mother Anna Doyle Wheeler was a writer and an advocate of women's rights who married Francis Massey Wheeler when she was just sixteen. The marriage was unhappy. Wheeler was an abusive alcoholic and  his wife defied convention by leaving him. She took ten year old Rosina and her sister Henrietta to Guernsey where her uncle General Sir John Doyle was Lieutenant Governor. She later moved to London to further the girls' education. Rosina spent some time at The renowned Mrs Rowden's school for young ladies in Kensington. Other famous students of Mrs Rowden were Lady Caroline Lamb, the poet Letitia Elizabeth Landon (L.E.L.), Emma Roberts and Anna Maria Fielding. 
Rosina married Edward Bulwer-Lytton in 1827, despite his parents objections. His parents stopped his allowance and the subsequent financial pressure caused substantial strain on the marriage. They separated in 1836 and although Ro…

The House at Silvermoor by Tracy Rees

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The latest novel from Tracy Rees, The House at Silvermoor is published on April 2nd by Quercus and is available in paperback and e-book. I was lucky enough to receive an e-arc from the publishers. The story revolves around two friends; Tommy and Josie growing up in neighbouring pit villages in South Yorkshire as the 19th Century gives way to the Twentieth. Both dream of a different kind of life. Josie craves kindness and the kind of family and friendship that she does not find at home and Tommy who is a keen scholar longs to learn. Through their encounters with the wealthy Sedgewick family the two friends are given a chance at a new life and discover a secret that could turn everything they think they know about the local gentry on its head. This is a well told and perfectly paced novel which explores the changing society of the early twentieth century as the working class begin to push against the old order, it also touches on the hardships of those working in the mines and the cont…

Adele by Nicola Cassidy

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Nicola Cassidy's third novel is a bit of a departure for the author who, as most of you will no doubt know, has previously written dark, gritty historical crime. However Fans of Nicola's writing style, characterisation and fabulous storytelling ability will not be disappointed. Adele is the story of Adele Astaire, sister of Fred Astaire. Before Fred became a movie star and before he was partnered with Ginger Rogers he danced with Adele, from the time they were tiny, both children had a passion and a talent for dance. Their parents brought them to New York to train and by the 1920s they were world famous. The story is told through a number of narrators; Adele herself,  Patricia a young woman working at Lismore Castle in Waterford and Ellie Morgan a Californian journalist researching Adele's life. This method of different time periods and the addition of interviews and research material is cleverly done and Nicola manages to maintain pace and narrative tension throughout. A…

Under A Wartime Sky By Liz Trenow

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Liz Trenow's latest historical novel focuses on the secret research station at Bawdsey Manor during the late 1930s as young physicist Vikram sets to work on techniques to improve communications for the RAF. He had been recruited from Cambridge where he was a gifted PhD student working on radio waves and those who recruited him think his ideas might just help Britain to win the coming war. It is at Bawdsey that Vic meets local girl Kath, she has recently left school and is searching for a purpose. When war is declared Kath thinks she may have found it as she signs up to join the WAAFs. The war however also separates the two young people, as they both get moved around the country for further training and war work but they write to each other and try to meet up when the can, their love story unfolding across the years and the miles. Liz Trenow is a gifted storyteller with an enviable skill in  conveying character development and emotion with a deft touch. Under a Wartime Sky is a pa…

The Italian Villa by Daniela Sacerdoti

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I have been a fan of Daniela Sacerdoti's writing for years and I was thrilled to be asked to take part in the blog tour for her new novel The Italian Villa. The book is set in two time periods; Italy in the thirties and forties and Present day Texas. Callie is a waitress who grew up in care and on her twenty first birthday she discovers that the parents she lost in a fire as a child were not her biological parents. She receives the keys to a Villa in Italy that she has inherited from her biological mother and the diary of a woman called Elisa. Desperate to learn more, she travels to Montevino in Italy to the Villa, captivated by Elisa's story and eager to discover the connection between them. Through the diary she learns about Elisa's struggle to become one of Italy's first woman doctors and her time during World War Two as the town and the people she loves are ripped apart. Sacerdoti is a powerful storyteller, she brings characters vividly to life so that you want to…