What’s it all about?:
Every time I see the King and the Queen, I am reminded of what it is I have done, and then I am afraid, I am beyond all expression afraid.
The wicked, bawdy Restoration court is no place for a child princess. Ten-year-old Anne cuts an odd figure: a sickly child, she is drawn towards improper pursuits. Cards, sweetmeats, scandal and gossip with her Ladies of the Bedchamber figure large in her life. But as King Charles’s niece, Anne is also a political pawn, who will be forced to play her part in the troubled Stuart dynasty.
As Anne grows to maturity, she is transformed from overlooked Princess to the heiress of England. Forced to overcome grief for her lost children, the political manoeuvrings of her sister and her closest friends and her own betrayal of her father, she becomes one of the most complex and fascinating figures of English history.
What did I think?:
A Want Of Kindness was a nice little surprise for me when it came clattering through my letterbox. It’s part of The Real Readers review system from the lovely team over at New Books Magazine (which I receive quarterly) and their companion web site http://www.nudge.com so many thanks to them for the opportunity to read this novel. My first impressions were definitely favourable it being a historical fiction title, a genre which I thoroughly enjoy and it tells the story of Queen Anne, one of our least known monarchs from history here in the UK. My own knowledge about Anne is incredibly hazy I have to admit and I relished the chance to learn more about the last Stuart monarch of England, Scotland and Ireland.
The story is told in chronological order from Anne’s childhood through to just before she ascended the throne with a lovely family tree at the beginning which was very useful as more characters came into play and I flicked backwards to remember where they fit in the scheme of things. As a fictional account it is quite slow going at first but becomes a lot more interesting when Anne’s father, James II is toppled from his throne because of his Catholic faith in favour of Anne’s sister Mary and her Dutch born husband, William. Anne would continue to feel guilty for the manner in which her father was deposed for the rest of her life but is devoted to her Protestant faith.
During her sister’s reign the relationship between Anne and Mary becomes increasingly strained and immediately before Mary’s death, the sisters have barely met or spoken at all. This is mainly down to Mary’s insistence that Anne’s beloved friends should be removed from the inner circle at court, something Anne is adamant will not happen as she relies on them unequivocally and would be distraught without them. Her status and finances are also challenged to the point where the sisters become completely estranged. This is represented beautifully by the author in the form of letters between the sisters (taken from actual letters in the royal archive).
William and Mary died leaving no heirs to the throne and Anne feels under great pressure to produce children. One of the saddest parts of the book for me was the trauma that Anne went through after seventeen pregnancies with her husband, Prince George of Denmark resulted in miscarriages, stillbirths, infants that died shortly after birth or those that died in early childhood. She managed to have one son who lived to the age of eleven but who then succumbed to what was believed to be smallpox or scarlet fever. The way in which Joanne Limburg presents Anne’s struggles with each loss is admirable and no-one can help but be moved by the way in which Anne deals with her grief and tries to move on.
Anne herself was quite a sickly creature and a bit too fond of the sweetmeats and other rich foods available to her which led to her putting on quite a bit of weight. She also suffered from gout, survived a nasty bout of smallpox and had frequent pains in her limbs all of which led to her becoming quite lame on bad days or unable to move at all. She died in the August of 1714 after another bout of ill health but the author does not take us as far as this choosing to end the novel just before Anne begins her reign as Queen.
Overall, I thought this was a clearly well researched and interesting historical novel. I don’t think I could compare it to authors such as Philippa Gregory or Alison Weir as the style of writing was quite different which I found both an advantage and a disadvantage as a reader. I loved that the chapters were short and snappy, some of which only amounted to half a page and as mentioned above, I did enjoy that a lot of the novel was made up of letters. Unfortunately, in my copy I found the font used for the letters quite difficult on the eye and it made reading them more of a chore then it should have been.
There were occasional periods also when the writing felt a bit too stilted as it moved from chapter to chapter which led to the story not flowing as well as I would have liked. It would also have been lovely to read a bit more about Anne as she finally becomes Queen as I was starting to become very interested in how her life would pan out. However, if you’re a fan of historical fiction and, like me, curious about the life of one of the more mysterious monarchs it’s a great read. Warning, be prepared for a rush of emotions as one by one, Anne’s children and potential heirs to the throne pass away – it definitely made an impact on me!
A Want Of Kindness was published on 2nd July by Atlantic Books and is available from all good book retailers now.
Would I recommend it?:
But of course!
Star rating (out of 5):