A rather different blog from me this time – a review of a book by a fellow lover of the seventeenth century.
As someone who ‘inhabits’ the seventeenth century as an historical interpreter and a fan of historical novels, I jumped at the chance to review Piers Alexander’s debut novel The Bitter Trade. Normally, reading historical fiction is a risky process for me. Will I be enthralled by the plot or frustrated by historical inaccuracy? Then there are those disappointing historical novels, which are a cheesy romance, ostensibly set in times gone by – times that are threaded through with factual errors. The Bitter Trade was a delight and no glaring anachronisms detracted from the story. The book is set at the time of the political turmoil of the Glorious Revolution in 1688 and the action is fast paced, making the book hard to put down. The plot is complex enough to hold the interest of the reader without being confusing. The characters, particularly that of the hero Calumny Spinks, are well drawn and believable.
The Bitter Trade is also beautifully written, with intricately drawn descriptive passages. Alexander’s characters do not speak in genuine seventeenth century language but this is just as well as it would alienate the majority of readers, rendering as it would the text incomprehensible to all but Shakespearian scholars. The author gets the balance just right. The vocabulary and phrasing are different enough to give the flavour of the period and remind the reader that they are not in the present, yet it possible to understand the meaning, even if some terms are no longer in current use.
I was given a copy of the novel to review but the task was a pleasure not a duty and I look forward to a sequel.