Monday, 2 November 2015

Historical Novel Society Review - Longlisted for HNS Indie Award

Lament for a Siege Town

Lament for a Siege Town by Clare Hawkins
Lament for a Siege Town is concerned with the siege of Colchester of 1648 by Parliamentarian forces while a Royalist army is trapped within the town walls and the townsfolk who suffer alongside the soldiers.

When I opened this novel to find it written in the present tense my heart fell, but I persevered and I am very glad I did. This is an accomplished novel peopled by compelling characters who you sympathise with and want to know better. We meet Sir Charles Lucas, one of the Royalist commanders, a local man whose family home has been destroyed by the Roundheads; Katherine, the wife of an alderman of the town; Beth, a girl who has to grow up quickly when war descends on her home; Tobias, the Roundhead soldier who finds himself also stuck in the town when he is left behind after an attack; and the delightful, mischievous twins Jack and Edward.

The novel looks good, the cover is attractive and descriptive, it feels good in the hand, and the publication quality is very high. I found no typos and no formatting issues, and it was easy to forget that this is an indie book that I was reading because I was in some way obliged; it became a novel I wanted to read and wanted to finish. Ms Hawkins follows up her characters, forgets no one, ties up loose ends and weaves a polished tale.

I am not a huge fan of the English Civil War or Roundheads, but this novel is a good read, and there are plenty of heroes and villains to choose from, Parliamentarian and Royalist, and ultimately it is a story, not of the Civil War but of people, emotions, torn loyalties, where war is not split into neat factions and is never simple. Heroes come in all shapes and sizes here, and the message that one takes away is that even the simplest, most ordinary person can make a difference.