I have rediscovered historical novels since I have been reviewing books here, so I was delighted when a blogging friend of mine Southhams Darling offered to send me a novel she had just finished reading and thought I would enjoy.
Considering this was a first novel I thought it was very ambitious of the author to not only pick Nell Gwynn as her protagonist but rather than just cover a particular period of her life she chose to tell her complete life story. By her own admission in the notes at the end of the novel she has tried to do so as fully and truthfully as possible, keeping to the facts as known as much as possible. I think she has succeeded very successfully and only true historians will pick up the few minor liberties that Gillian Bagwell tells us she altered as to the timing of events. She also copes successfully with a vast cast of characters, the vast majority of which were real life people in Nell's world. With this brilliant first novel there seems no doubt that Gillian Bagwell is going to be a historical fiction writer to look out for.
The story is a bawdy one and the detail in the novel is sexually explicit, but it will make you realise exactly what life was like for this little girl growing up in 17C London. From oyster seller, to courtesan, orange seller to actress. Nell becomes one of London's favourite actresses when she is still a very young woman and her beauty, personality and ambitious dedication soon make her a favourite of Charles the Second. It is her relationship with Charles that changes her life for ever, as the novel progresses you can feel just how much this famous historical figure was passionate in her love for the King. A wonderful fictional read about real people and places.
Gillian Bagwell grew up in Berkeley, California, and began her professional life as an actress, studying at the University of California Berkeley and the Drama Studio London at Berkeley before relocating to Los Angeles to pursue a career in film and television. She moved into directing and producing theatre, founding The Pasadena Shakespeare Company, where she served as artistic director for nine years, producing thirty-seven critically acclaimed productions.
She united her life-long love of books, British history, and theatre in writing her first novel, "The Darling Strumpet," based on the life of Nell Gwynn. Her second novel, 'The September Queen' which was published in paperback in November 2011 is the first fictional account of the perilous and romantic odyssey of Jane Lane, an ordinary English girl who risked her life to help the young Charles II escape after the disastrous Battle of Worcester in 1651 by disguising him as her servant. Gillian is now writing her third novel, about the formidable four-times widowed Tudor dynast Bess of Hardwick. Visit her official website, Gillian Bagwell for further information about her books and upcoming events, and links to her blogs, articles, and videos of sites in Nell Gwynn’s London.
The video I have included gives a brief glimpse of present day Covent Garden and the church of St Paul's Covent Garden, which were the setting for scenes from the novel.
The biographical information photo and the video used in this post are with thanks to the following websites.
Goodreads Author Profile, Gillian Bagwell Facebook Profile
Number 6 in the Awards listed at the top of this post just happens to be another novel about Nell Gwynn, which I also reviewed Exit the Actress by Priya Parmar enjoy one and I think you will also enjoy the other.
I have chosen to read this title as the letter D for The A - Z Book Challenge which I have decided to attempt to achieve in alphabetical order. I have a good selection of titles to choose from our bookshelves, it will be interesting to see how far I can get before I get stuck. You can follow my progress here.