Books of the Year – Saturday Review (The Times)

Congratulations to Elizabeth Fremantle, Jessie Childs and Helen Castor who all have Saturday Review Books of the Year.


God’s Traitors: Terror and Faith in Elizabethan England by Jessie Childs

(c) Bodley Head

(c) Bodley Head

‘Jessie Childs has explored the religious tumult of Elizabethan England through the experiences of the Catholic family, the Vauxes of Harrowden Hall: the result is a gripping tale of spies and skulduggery, of casuistry and unshakeable belief, of torture, martyrdom, courage and the ferocious collision and confusion of politics and religion. God’s Traitors is thought-provoking and timely, at a moment when the British state is once again beset by fear of religious fanaticism.’

p.5 (Saturday Review, December 6th 2014).


Joan of Arc: A History by Helen Castor

(c) Faber & Faber

(c) Faber & Faber

‘In 1428 a 17-year-old peasant girl appears at the French court and demands to speak with the king. The voice of God has told her to save France. And off to battle Joan the Maid goes, becoming the figurehead of a messianic crusade to liberate her homeland from its English occupiers. Castor, a Cambridge historian, ferrets away in the documents of time, carefully separating fact from myth. The story that emerges, after Castor has freed the warrior-saint from propaganda, both modern and old, is still utterly extraordinary.’

p.6 (Saturday Review, December 6th 2014).

Historical Fiction

Sisters of Treason by Elizabeth Fremantle

(c) Penguin

(c) Penguin

‘More Tudors. But even those jaded by the dynasty that launched a thousand novelists will find much that is fresh in Fremantle’s work. Katharine and Mary Grey are the younger sisters of Lady Jane Grey. The book starts with Jane’s execution and follows her sisters’ battle to survive the bloody religious turmoil of Queen Mary’s reign. This is powerful writing; the girls’ fears and passions burn through then pages. Mary Grey, the misformed, plain sister, is forced to dandle on the ageing Queen’s knee like an outwardly placid doll. Her inner fury lingers long after the last page is turned.’

p.14 (Saturday Review, December 6th 2014)

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