Set during the Jacobite Risings of 1715 and 1745, this is the story of Charles Radcliffe, a brave and devoted follower of the exiled Stuart royal family, and of Jenny, his beloved daughter from a secret marriage. As Charles strives to regain the English throne for his deposed king, Jenny struggles to leave the conflicts of the Old World behind in ...
Set during the Jacobite Risings of 1715 and 1745, this is the story of Charles Radcliffe, a brave and devoted follower of the exiled Stuart royal family, and of Jenny, his beloved daughter from a secret marriage. As Charles strives to regain the English throne for his deposed king, Jenny struggles to leave the conflicts of the Old World behind in her search for freedom and happiness in the American colonies. From rural Northumbria to the bustle of 18th century London and colonial Virginia, Seton brings history to life to create a fiercely beautiful novel of loyalty, passion, courage and tragedy. ANYA SETON (1904 -1990) was the author of 10 bestselling historical novels: Dragonwyk, My Theodosia, The Turquoise, The Hearth & Eagle, Foxfire, Katherine, Avalon, The Winthrop Woman, Devil Water and Green Darkness
I first attempted to read Devil Water about 20 years ago, but was unable to even get through chapter one. It is testament to how my reading tastes have matured, I suppose, that this time around when I picked it up, I found the story completely engrossing right from the start until its conclusion 500 pages later.
It was Anya Seton's particular gift as a writer, to be able to discover some all-but-forgotten person in history, take what little bits of information was known about them, and develop it into a full, detailed, rich and completely credible story. And nowhere does she display that gift more thoroughly than in Devil Water. In fact, as she tells in her notes at the end, there is understandably no documented evidence of Jenny at all. The only "proof" of her existence is in the legends passed down through the Snowdon and Radcliffe families. And yet, from these little scraps of folklore, her prodigious research into the lives of people who really did exist, and her own prolific imagination, Anya Seton creates a wonderfully full story of Jenny's life complete with a full cast of minor characters.
Jenny is the most admirable of all the Seton heroines I have read about so far. She is not only beautiful (as all the Seton heroines are) but she is brave, fearless, and with a mind of her own. I like that Seton doesn't have Jenny flouting these qualities all the time; indeed, most of the time she is obedient, charming, and pliable as she has been trained to be. It is only at critical moments, when it deeply matters to her, that Jenny displays her backbone of steel and doesn't cave in to the pressure of the men in her life. She also displays her independent mind in that she never buys into her father's Catholicism or belief in the Jacobite cause; she loves her father but often quietly disagrees with him. Jenny is also remarkable because, in spite of her inauspicious beginnings, difficult childhood, and odd relationship with her father, she manages to remain whole and unscathed. It is not until she marries at age 17 that she finally has a place of her own in the world, and feels that she truly belongs instead of living on someone else's favor. And yet, she is never bitter, never "warped", and indeed at times displays much better sense than either her father or her husband.
The underlying theme of Devil Water is loyalty. It is the one quality that dominates the lives of both Charles and Jenny, and indeed binds all of the major characters together. It is loyalty that ties Charles to the losing Jacobite cause that dominates his life. Perhaps it is even loyalty that causes him to love Jenny after his fashion and to occasionally attempt to make her life better. It is loyalty that drives Jenny, also, perhaps loyalty that she inherited from her father; nearly all of her actions are driven by loyalty to her father, her husband, or to the dear friends who have been good to her and helped her.
As usual, Seton creates a wonderful sense of time and place; Northumberland, London and Colonial Virginia all come alive in these pages and the reader is transported to each place. This is a book I could hardly put down. There was never a slow spot, the story and the pace never lagged. The book is bittersweet from beginning to end, and Jenny is a heroine that truly inspires admiration.
Sep 27, 2007
BOOK WAS OK.. NOT AS GOOD AS ANTICIPATED. VER SLOW MOVING IN PLACES.. ABOUT 50 PAGES TO LONG
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