Why am I not seeing this book piled high in bookshops? It's easily the equal of historical novels that are flying off the shelves at the moment and garnering all sorts of praise. Maybe it's the cover - it's certainly unrepresentative of what's inside. Where do we get the impression of how swashbuckling this novel is, how it's going to sweep you to the heat and sun-bleached colours of seventeenth century Spain, how it's going to take you into the equally intriguing world of the elite swordsmen of Seville and its Morisco - its converted Muslim - population?
There is so much to like about this book, especially once Elspet manages to escape from the stultifying confines of a woman's life in seventeenth century London for the wonders of Spain. Expectations are subverted very neatly and, without breaking faith with the reader, Deborah Swift takes her narrative in directions we might not have predicted.
To really succeed a historical novel needs two things, for me: a narrative voice that manages to suggest the period without descending into pastiche and characters who are of their time. Deborah Swift excels in both these areas. Add to that historical details which don't overwhelm the reader but support the understanding of the world being created and this is a book to be relished.
Deborah Swift's latest novel is a tight, complex and wide ranging story of intrigue and family love.
The meticulous research takes the reader deep into the world of 17th Century Spain and explores the cruelty, injustice and iniquity of the treatment of the Moriscos by the authorities. The characters are believable and engaging and the narrative builds to a compelling crescendo. The ending was completely unpredictable, and ultimately I found the book impossible to put down.
This is the third of Deborah Swift's books I have read. Deborah has a canny knack of painting pictures with words and, reading A Divided Inheritance, I found myself completely absorbed in the atmosphere of both London and Seville. Her characters, though not always likable, defy you to be "on their side". There is nothing sentimental about this book, these characters could be your ancestors! Give this book a read, you won't be disappointed.
Early-1600 London and Seville come alive as Deborah Swift skillfully weaves fiction and fact into a story about identity. Centering the novel around lacemaking and swordplay, Swift brilliantly captures an era when ancestry determines one's place in society. A daughter is denied ownership of the family business, an imposter takes what is not his, and the faithful must hide their religious beliefs.
With precise pacing and an eye to detail, Swift transports us from the personal to the larger world of prejudice against Moriscos in Spain. There is much to admire in this novel - the crisp writing, the fully-realized characters -- but it's Swift sensitive and vivid portrayal of Moriscos that especially sets this novel apart.
A Divided Inheritance achieves what all stellar historical fiction must: through the voices of imagined characters, the reader learns important history lessons that linger and haunt long after the book is finished.
Readers of Deborah Swift's first two novels The Lady's Slipper and The Gilded Lily will have high expectations of her latest book - and they will not be disappointed. A Divided Inheritance is simply outstanding - the richness of the characterisation, the detailed and richly evocative picture of early 17th century London and Spain, make this a novel to be treasured. The plot strand about the expulsion of the Moriscos from Spain is one rarely covered in historical fiction, and is shown here with heartbreaking intensity, and the scenes in the Spanish fencing school are a delight.
Reviewers have compared Deborah Swift's work to Philippa Gregory, and it would be well deserved if she were to enjoy similar success.
For many years my favourite historical novel has been Sharon Penman's The Sunne in Splendour; A Divided Inheritance deserves to be mentioned in the same breath.