For My Sins by Alex Nye
|For My Sins by Alex Nye|
|Category: Historical Fiction|
|Reviewer: Ani Johnson|
|Summary: Mary Queen of Scots looks back at her life in the form of a well-written, thoroughly enjoyable, meaty historical fiction.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 400||Date: March 2017|
|Publisher: Fledgling Press|
1586: Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots, has time to look back over her past life as she sits, incarcerated by her second cousin Queen Elizabeth I. Mary's life hasn't been one of totally pampered royalty. Growing up in France, away from her mother, widowed and then returning to Scotland to claim the throne before she was even 19, her struggle with fate started early. The tensions between Mary the woman, Mary the Catholic and Mary the political force continue through three marriages, an unsolved murder and the thwarted desire to serve her people. Now it's come to this prison cell but while there's life, there's still hope…
England born/Scotland adopted Alex Nye showed a passion for writing at an early age; a passion leading to awards and acclaim as an author of children's and YA fiction in later years. Taking her inspiration from her new homeland, Alex now brings us adult historical fiction that shines a wonderful depth, understanding and humanity onto the story of the Queen of the Scots.
Alex's style is at the meatier end of hist-fict as much is packed within in an excellent way. Indeed, Alex gets it right, using her discoveries to provide us with a greater, deftly animated sense of people, time and place rather than the impression some writers give of shoe horning research in whether it fits or not.
Mary herself speaks to us via a diary and pieces that cut through the fourth wall while she sits with her tapestries and attendants. As we eagerly inhale her words and the episodes that have made up a breathtakingly eventful life, we begin to understand what childhood being displaced by duty does to an existence. In fact this is a motif that crops up throughout her reign and beyond. For Mary this means duty to the Scottish crown and the Roman Catholic faith: two very shaky cornerstones in the 16th century.
Mary's power and decisiveness are there as she clashes words and sentiments with people like Protestant purist and adversary John Knox. Yet we also witness her vulnerability, examples being when her love for Darnley is met with betrayal and in those moments when we witness her pining for the son who others have turned against her.
Talking of Darnley, it's not a spoiler to say that his murder remains unsolved to this present day so it was fascinating to see Alex's plausible treatment and reasoning behind it, along with the relationship that flows from Darnley's ashes.
Hist-fict writers are always fighting the fact that history becomes its own spoiler yet Alex ensures the tale isn't ruined by foreknowledge. Despite realising the end result of certain alliances, I still couldn't put the book down as the author ensures that the tension rises and we hope against hope that things will be different this time. (Illogical but true in my case!)
The fact is that via these pages, we feel as if we've met Mary and are as involved in the story as much as any character with whom she interacts. Of course there are as many interpretations of Mary as there are historians to interpret her, but none of that matters as Alex subsumes us in the moment.
This is indeed not just an excellent, thoroughly enjoyable read but also a masterclass in how historical fiction should be done. Definitely on my re-read annually list!
(A huge thank you goes to the folk at Fledgling for providing us with a copy for review.)
Further Reading: If you love your hist-fict you'll also love… The Queen's Gambit by Elizabeth Fremantle - a Katherine Parr story that will refresh even the Tudored-out among us; Larchfield by Polly Clark - it's 1930 and a young poet meets a certain Wystan H. Auden; and/or The Devil in the Marshalsea by Antonia Hodgson – the divine beginning of a series of romps of joyous intrigue set in the 18th century and featuring the can't-do-right-for-doing-wrong Tom Hawkins.
You can read more book reviews or buy For My Sins by Alex Nye at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy For My Sins by Alex Nye at Amazon.com.
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