Friday, June 21, 2013

Review: She Rises

She Rises
She Rises by Kate Worsley

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The internet is the curse of modern fiction. Why imagine anything when you can Google it? Too many novels are researched to within an inch of their lives, and they aren't better for it. You have to be patient with the early pages of 'She Rises' as Worsley gets her research out of the way, and you can almost see her ticking off the boxes on her 'List of Period Dialect Phrases I've Looked Up' and 'Research Notes on Visiting Harwich'. Once she does, the novel thankfully kicks into gear.

Louise is plucked away from churning butter in the manor house kitchen and into domestic service in Harwich, where she develops a strong bond with her young mistress - one that she doesn't understand but modern readers will, even without the heavy emphasis that's placed on the fact that Worsley was mentored by Sarah Waters.

She is also under orders to find out what happened to her brother Luke. We discover in a parallel narrative that Luke has been press-ganged and is serving on the HMS Essex, on its way to the Caribbean to fight in the War of Jenkins' Ear (which places the novel squarely in the year 1740).

It takes a long time for these narratives to come together (one prospective publisher apparently advised Worsley to slash the first quarter of the book, and I think they were right), but when they do the twist is staggering. (One reviewer said they saw it a mile off, but I'm usually quite good at spotting approaching plot twists and it caught me out.) The way the stories come together sends the novel off in another direction, again suggesting that the opening quarter should have been cut to avoid unbalancing the book, but by this time the reader is so caught up in the story of Luke and Louise that this flaw is easily forgiven. Also, the gradual build-up of tension makes the brief and not very graphic sex scences all the more erotic.

Some authors are one-trick ponies, but I think Kate Worsley might have an even better second book in her.

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