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Flood (The Fenland Series) Paperback – 6 Feb 2014
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About the Author
Ann Swinfen’s first three novels, The Anniversary, The Travellers, and A Running Tide, all with a contemporary setting but also an historical resonance, were published by Random House, with translations into Dutch and German. The Testament of Mariam marked something of a departure. Set in the first century, it recounts, from an unusual perspective, one of the most famous and yet ambiguous stories in human history. At the same time it explores life under a foreign occupying force, in lands still torn by conflict to this day. Her second historical novel, Flood, first in the Fenland Series, based on true events, takes place in East Anglia during the seventeenth century, where the local people fight desperately to save their land from greedy and unscrupulous speculators. The second novel in the Fenland series, Betrayal, is set partly in East Anglia and partly in London. This Rough Ocean is a novel based on the real-life experiences of the Swinfen family during the 1640s, at the time of the English Civil War. Currently she is also working on a late sixteenth century series, featuring a young Marrano physician who is recruited as a code-breaker and spy in Walsingham’s secret service. The first book in the series is The Secret World of Christoval Alvarez, the second is The Enterprise of England, the third is The Portuguese Affair, the fourth is Bartholomew Fair and the fifth is Suffer the Little Children. A sixth novel in the series is due in 2015.
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Mercy Bennington, her parents and brother farm on the Norfolk Fens, as have generations of their ancestors. Fifteen years ago, before the war, her grandfather lead an attack against the drainage works that were damaging the largest area of the Fens. Now livelihoods are being threatened again under Cromwell’s government. This puritanical and sombre regime endangers not only the delicate balance of life on the Fens but also the Fenlanders very existence, through drainage and commandeering their land, crops and livestock. In addition, the new laws forbid people marrying in church or baptizing their children and dreadful punishments are meted out to those found defying the Puritan rules.
As the men are brought in to drain the land, with no care for the consequences to the village, its inhabitants or the environment, Mercy, her family and friends resort to desperate measures which threaten not only the family, but also the villagers. Flood is told from Mercy’s first person perspective, so it’s very easy to feel sympathy for the untenable position the Fenlanders find themselves in, and justify their reactions.
People not only have to deal with the destruction of their lands, property and lifestyle but also the growing threat of being charged with witchcraft. The witch-finder Matthew Hopkins, along with his second in command, travel the country, spreading panic and following up on accusations caused by villagers turning against each other for the flimsiest of reasons.
With wonderful attention to detail, Ann Swinfen’s rich descriptions of village life and the remote beauty of the fens conjure up vivid images of an area and lifestyle I knew next to nothing about. The narrative is engrossing, researched and written extremely well, perfectly evoking a time of oppressive government rule and uncertainty. Highly recommended for lovers of historical fiction and those that just like a cracking story.
‘It seems they can do what they please. Was not the War fought to overthrow the tyranny of a king? It seems tyranny still stalks the land.’ ~ Mercy Bennington
The detail of the Fens was superb.