Book Review: The Revelations of Carey Ravine

The Revelations of Carey Ravine

The Revelations of Carey Ravine – Debra Daley
Published by Hachette New Zealand

I felt bereft when I realised I’d read the last page of The Revelations of Carey Ravine. For a few moments, I refused to believe that it was over; I flipped frantically through the remaining blank pages, desperate, desiring, wishing for more.

This is a novel that will pull you into the exciting and dangerously-heady world of 1770s London, and take you on a fascinating and opportunistic journey through the seedy opulence of new money, old money, and no money. Daley has a sumptuous talent for drawing you in to a time when money is the only language worth talking; entry into the social elite is solely dependent on wealth and connections, and it doesn’t matter whether that wealth is real or perceived.

Carey Ravine and her husband, Oliver Nash, are desperate to be a part of the highest echelons of London society, and will do nothing, it seems, to be left out. Nash believes that their participation in regular late, drunken and debauched nights are necessary for making their way in the city.

However, Carey begins to realise that their quest for “being someone” is taking its toll on her emotionally, morally and physically, and when confronted by some difficult but believable truths about her husband and his dealings, she begins to question the life they are living.

Daley has created an ebullient cast of characters, each vivid and enthralling in their own ways. Nash is a loveable and charming rogue (until he isn’t); his wife attractive and lively, yet more intelligent and perceptive than others believe. The characters that circle around them are cleverly written and easy to like or not; the villains are easy to spot, yet there are moments where you question the motives of each and every one.

I thoroughly enjoyed The Revelations of Carey Ravine, and while I was sad when I realise I’d finished, it ended beautifully, and that softened the blow.

Thank you to the team at Hachette New Zealand for my review copy; you can buy your own here!

Book Review: Katherine of Aragon

Katherine of Aragon

Katherine of Aragon: The True Queen – Alison Weir
Published by Hachette New Zealand

History tells us how she died. This captivating novel shows us how she lived.

I’m a sucker for historical fiction, and have been fascinated by British royal history since my last year of high school. I can still hear my history teacher’s voice reciting, “Divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived” to help us remember the fates of each of Henry VIII’s wives. I loved the historically inaccurate but wonderfully compelling The Tudors (starring Jonathan Rhys Meyers as Henry VIII), and devoured books such as The Other Boleyn Girl. My husband laughed at me when I returned from a visit to Windsor Castle with a fridge magnet timeline of the Kings and Queens of England, but I love it, and it’s a bit of a talking point in my kitchen.

This meant I began reading Katherine of Aragon: The True Queen with a very good idea of what would happen…but even then I wasn’t prepared for how much I enjoyed this novel. Alison Weir has published numerous history books, and she knows more than most about British royal history. She describes various palaces and characters in such astonishing and evocative detail, and it’s obvious that this detail is all derived from fact. To be able to subtly write about a certain item of furniture or decoration or item of jewellery without it sounding like a recitation of facts is a talent of Weir’s.

She portrays Katherine as devout, but also devoted to her husband and to her daughter, Mary. She allows us to experience each and every miscarriage, stillbirth and death of her babies that Katherine experienced, as well as each illness and heartbreak. Where fans of Henry VIII would have us believe that Katherine was barren, grim and hard-hearted in her faith, Weir has created a much softer character; she reminds us that Katherine was shipped to a foreign country with no knowledge of the language or customs, and that she was a daughter, a mother, and a betrayed wife.

There are five more novels to come in the Six Tudor Queens series, and I’m simply bursting to read the next installment. The names of Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour, Katherine Howard and Katherine Parr all pop up at various points during the novel, which gives the reader an idea of how all the queens are involved in the king’s court somehow. I thought it was very clever how Anne Boleyn is brought into the story, but the novel remains Katherine’s – it could easily have switched to become more about Henry’s second wife, but Weir keeps to her account of Katherine’s life.

Well-written, captivating and compelling, Katherine of Aragon: The True Queen is a fascinating new look at a very old and well-documented subject, and I highly recommend it to fans of historical novels, or those who think they might like a wee taste of this genre.