Friday, 13 January 2012

Season of Light by Katherine McMahon (Finally...)

Well, Christmas and the start of term have been very busy for me! Essays, organising conferences, researching for curating an exhibition, job applications - and an interview! - and obviously course-related reading and essays... but now things have settled down, I'm finally able to give you my review of Katherine McMahon's Season of Light! (Please forgive me for being so late with it...)

I love historical fiction, it's something about the settings and the fashion... this one particularly caught my eye as it is set around the time of the French Revolution and deals heavily in the idea of cosmopolitanism which was rife with women of eighteenth-century Britain. As you can tell, it intrigued me because the eighteenth-century is my specialism. Usually, when I pick up historical fiction, it's based in the era of the Tudors, in the strain of Philippa Gregory or Hilary Mantel. I know enough of the period to enjoy the books, and not enough to make me skeptical of what is written. All I can say is, I was very pleasantly surprised that my specialism did not blind me to the brilliance of Season of Light (and, indeed, it gave me no particular pause for thought in that way). I even smiled as a familiar name popped up here and there, such as Madame Genlis or the better known Robespierre.

It begins with a quote from Dicken's A Tale of Two Cities (a World Book Night book for 2012!) which is where the novel gets it's title, Season of Light. The quote really sets the scene, Dickens' view of the division of opinions during the the French Revolution really hits the spot for me. It was a time of fear, intrigue, and terror, and also hope, whether you were French or British. The story encapsulates this in the whirlwind romance and desperation of Asa's situation, which is so easy to get drawn into. If you enjoy Jane Austen, you will enjoy this more - the feisty heroines and their bold independence are even more engaging.

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