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This review is from: Awakening (Hardcover)
Awakening is Stevie Davies' twelfth novel, and it has all the powerful virtues of its predecessors, notably prose that is poised and elegant and disciplined, but also a quiet evocation of the challenges that women face in a world dominated by men. Once again she has chosen an historical setting, this time Wiltshire in the disquieting years when Darwin's Origin of Species accelerated the permeation of doubt into minds that had previously enjoyed settled and comforting theological certainties. The historical research is scrupulous, and the mingling of historical characters (notably C.H. Spurgeon, who is wonderfully brought back to life) and characters born of the imagination is deftly achieved. As always, Davies is an accomplished communicator of sensations (such as the intense joy of breast-feeding, or the experience of bereavement) and creator of scenes (such Spurgeon on a railway platform, blessing a dying child, with onlookers kneeling in prayer). Reading the novel is a pleasure, because of the quality of the writing, but it is also an emotionally engaging experience, and is at times harrowing. There is always a sense of the novelist's probing intelligence at play (in this respect rather like the experience of reading George Eliot), and that quality enriches a very fine novel.