I was thrilled to be given the opportunity to read something about one of our more enigmatic Queens of England, and I have to admit that, despite my love of all things historical, I was woefully ignorant of the life and times of Queen Anne. Sure, I knew all about her more charismatic uncle, Charles II, and sort of, understood the politics behind the events that happened during the reign of Charles' successor, and Anne's father , James II, but of his two daughters, Mary and Anne, I knew very little.
What A Want of Kindness aims to do is to give an imagined life to the young Anne of York, from her early childhood, through to her accession as Queen of England, and by using documented letters and absorbing historical detail, the author succeeds in bringing this feisty young girl to life. The splendid latter years of the Stuart era come alive, and the liveliness of the Restoration court with its plots and counter plots, along with the internal politics, all help to make this a fascinating and lively read.
The story is quite complex, there is much historical information to take in, so I didn't read it quickly, as I wanted to try and learn as much as I could. The author has a clearly done an enormous amount of research and this shows in the intelligent and introspective narrative, and the way in which the history is allowed to speak for itself. I grew to really like Anne, in fact I liked her rather more than her sister Mary, and sympathised greatly with her, as she struggled with numerous pregnancies, in her desperate quest to have a living child and so maintain the Stuart dynasty.
In this the 350th anniversary of the birth of Queen Anne, this is a timely and fitting celebration of her life and times and is a commendable debut historical novel.
My thanks to Real Readers and Atlantic Books for my review copy of this book