Darkling by Laura Beatty

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Darkling by Laura Beatty

Category: Historical Fiction
Rating: 3/5
Reviewer: Luke Marlowe
Reviewed by Luke Marlowe
Summary: A skilfully-written novel that combines the stories of two women, separated by hundreds of years. Intelligent and engaging, only the distance maintained from the characters left me somewhat cold.
Buy? MAYBE Borrow? YES
Pages: 400 Date: May 2015
Publisher: Vintage
ISBN: 9780099584148

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Brilliana Harley is a seventeenth century Puritan, and a Roundhead in a county of Puritans. Driven to defend both her beliefs and home in the front of total aggression, Brilliana must take charge and defend her home, all the while consumed with longing for an absent husband. She soon comes under a brutal and unrelenting siege, and will struggle to survive. In the present day, Mia Morgan is researching the life of Brilliana Harley, hoping to finish a book begun by her late ex-lover. As she struggles to come to term with her grief, and to rebuild a life from what she has left, Mia finds her life becoming irrevocably entwined with that of the tragic Brilliana.

Books that blend timelines are nothing new – in fact, the 'Author writes a book about past events, becomes engrossed by past events and eventually reflects on events in own life' trope seems to be pretty common nowadays. I’ve certainly read four or five books that follow a similar theme. Thankfully, Laura Beatty is a very good writer indeed – her prose is extraordinarily good, and makes the book an intelligent and interesting read. The story of Brilliana Harley is superb, and ties in well to Mia’s own story, with emotional links regarding the women’s feelings towards loss and acceptance resonating extremely well. Luckily, for both the reader and the author, Lady Brilliana Harley was a real life figure, and one who frequently wrote letters, many of which remain today. The account of her life given in the book is vivid, and often written using the language of Brilliana’s time. It is at first a little gruelling to read, but soon becomes far easier, especially given how much more gripping Brilliana’s story becomes.

In truth, I would have preferred the focus to be more on Brilliana – her story is one I should like to read more about. Mia Morgan, on the other hand, suffers somewhat. Whilst she features far more than Brilliana, the prose seems determined to keep the reader at a distance from Mia, and as such I found it rather difficult to build much of an affection for her, despite discovering more about her history with her father, earlier life, and her ill-fated relationship. To be honest, I really found myself longing to be back in the turbulent, exciting world of Brilliana, and the events that led to her death. To be fair, I do believe that this is just a matter of taste though – the writing style was not for me, but I can’t deny that the prose was cleverly written. I would perhaps, have preferred to read a short story or an article by this author instead of a novel I fully appreciate that she is a hugely talented writer, and this book will be loved by many - but Darkling wasn’t for me.

For further reading, I can’t deny that I was captured by the tale of Brilliana, and her struggle to survive as a woman in the midst of a Civil War. I would heartily recommend The Silvered Heart by Katherine Clements – one of the best books I have read in a while, and an intriguing portrait of a woman in turbulent times.

Buy Darkling by Laura Beatty at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Darkling by Laura Beatty at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy Darkling by Laura Beatty at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Darkling by Laura Beatty at Amazon.com.


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