This is a very special review for a very special book. Cecily is a fantastic novel by Annie Garthwaite, based on an amazing woman that I am so proud to be able to call my 18 x great-grandmother!
Thank you so much to Olivia at Penguin Random House for sending me an arc.
Thank you also to Annie for having a little chat with me on Twitter about my connection, it meant a lot!
If you don’t know who Cecily is, take a look here: https://www.anniegarthwaite.com/blog/who-was-cecily-neville
The word is a spark. They can start a fire with it, or smother it in their fingertips. She chooses to start a fire.
You are born high, but marry a traitor’s son. You bear him twelve children, carry his cause and bury his past.
You play the game, against enemies who wish you ashes. Slowly, you rise.
You are Cecily.
But when the King who governs you proves unfit, what then?
Loyalty or treason – death may follow both. The board is set. Time to make your first move.
Told through the eyes of its greatest unseen protagonist, this astonishing debut plunges you into the blood and exhilaration of the first days of the Wars of the Roses, a war as women fight it.
As a fan of Historical Fiction, I am always keen to read about strong female characters, and when I found out that the protagonist in this book is also one of my ancestors I knew I HAD to read it.
I had a little background knowledge of Cecily from things I had read online when I discovered her during my genealogical research into my family tree, but, I knew nothing of the intricacies of her life.
Through Annie’s writing, I felt that I was there alongside Cecily through all the ups and downs that life threw at her. The imagery Annie paints in the text is so vivid, the places and people really are brought to life. Cecily was formidable, intelligent, driven, ambitious, and loyal. She had an incredible talent for manipulation and being able to talk her way both into and out of situations. She held her own in a world dominated by men, and in her sphere were the most powerful men in the country. A ruthless and resilient wife, mother, and leader.
The writing is unabated, exciting, and powerful. With each chapter, I couldn’t wait to read on further. Sometimes with Historical Fiction I can get a little lost with names, places and dates but Annie has managed to capture a complex tale in an easy to read and highly enjoyable way. You can see how well researched not only the major events in her life were, but those other details (often overlooked in history, particularly when it comes to women) of friendships, family, the effects of the loss of her children and her love for Richard, how all of these interacted with the decisions she made and the repercussions for both herself and those around her, from this.
I am so incredibly humbled to have been given the opportunity to read the arc of Cecily and am very proud to descend from such an amazing woman. I have already found myself in situations where I tell myself ‘you are a daughter of Cecily, you are strong and can handle this’, it really helps!
Thank you again to Penguin Random House for the arc.
I urge everyone to buy a copy!
Annie Garthwaite grew up in a working class community in the north-east of England.
A schoolgirl interest in medieval history became a lifelong obsession with Cecily Neville, so, at age fifty-five, she enrolled on the Warwick Writing MA programme.
Her extraordinary debut novel Cecily is the result. During a thirty-year international business career she frequently found herself the only woman at the table, where she gained valuable insights into how a woman like Cecily might have operated.
Today she lives with her partner – and far too many animals – on the side of a green Shropshire hill close to the Yorkist stronghold of Ludlow.
OUT 29th JULY 2021