While I was at the beach this summer I read a terrific historical novel called BY THE SWORD. It stood out for me not just because of the great writing, but because of the period. It had me reaching back into the dim dark past of year ten English History, to the turbulent Cromwell Years. Like any civil war, it divided families, neighbours and friends. Alison Stuart wove the history beautifully with a great romantic story so I was really excited to hear that yesterday this book won the 2008 Eppie for Best Historical Novel! Congratulations, Alison!
I asked Alison about how she came to write BY THE SWORD and she said, “The inspiration came from a house. When I was 11 my grandfather, who lived nearby, took me to visit Harvington Hall near Kidderminster in Worcestershire. Something about the serene, red-brick, medieval, moated manor house captured my imagination and by my teenage years I had renamed it Seven Ways and populated it with a fictional family – the Thorntons. Generations of the Thornton family had exciting adventures written in pencil in spiral bound notepads. Over the years, the notepads were put away and the Thorntons forgotten. It was not till much later (that fortuitous skiing accident which left me with a dislocated shoulder, alone in a ski lodge with a notebook computer) that I decided to write a book and returned once more to my passion for the English Civil War and the Thornton family of Seven Ways. Kate Ashley and Jonathan Thornton came to life as the snow drifted against the window. I hasten to add they bear little or no resemblance to their predecessors in the spiral bound notebook!”If you’re looking for a great historical read and a departure from the Regency Period then you can’t go past Alison Stuart. Congratulations once again!