Book Review: The Illumination of Ursula Flight by Anna-Marie Crowhurst

The Illumination of Ursula FlightAbout the Book

Born on the night of an ill-auguring comet just before Charles II’s Restoration, Ursula Flight has a difficult future written in the stars.

Against the custom of the age she begins an education with her father, who fosters in her a love of reading, writing and astrology.

Following a surprise meeting with an actress, Ursula yearns for the theatre and thus begins her quest to become a playwright despite scoundrels, bounders, bad luck and heartbreak.

Format: ebook, hardcover (416 pp.)    Publisher: Allen and Unwin UK
Published: 3rd May 2018                        Genre: Historical Fiction

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My Review

Ursula gives us the story of her life in her own inimitable fashion starting with her birth as a comet crosses the sky and her childhood encounter with an actress that sparks her interest in the theatre.  Having an unusually enlightened father, Ursula learns Latin, Greek and other languages, studies astronomy and reads every book and play she can lay her hands on.  Soon she’s trying her own hand at writing plays, depicting scenes of love, comedy, mischief and a little wishful thinking that are acted out with her young friends.

Unfortunately for Ursula, all the fun and games come to an end when she is promised in marriage to Lord Tyringham.  As well as being an unfortunate match, Ursula misses her friends and family and finds herself bored with the responsibilities of being a wife.  Things come to a head when Ursula discovers secrets about her husband that the alert reader may have suspected for some time.

Although I found the whole book entertaining, I’ll admit it really picked up for me in the last third when the location changes and Ursula finally gets a chance to take her future into her own hands.  Unfortunately, this is not before she has learned through bitter experience that men are not always to be trusted!

The story is told in the distinctive voice the author has created for Ursula and interspersed with excerpts from Ursula’s plays, diary entries and personal notes that reveal her innermost thoughts.   I really enjoyed the humour in the plays and some of her lists are extremely funny.  For example, her ‘Discourse on Matrimony & Wiving for New Brides’ by  ‘A Married Woman Who Knoweth’ in which the most useful piece of advice is probably: ‘If all other courses fail you, and you are brought down by worries or woe or other encumbrances suffered by the dutiful wife and feel fit to burst with ill feeling and frustration and love-lack, steal yourself out of doors away from prying eyes and running as fast as and as furious as you can, scream every oath you know in English, and other languages.’  Yep, I reckon that still works.   There’s also the particularly saucy list she comes up with later in the book.  (Those who have read the book will immediately recognise the bit I’m talking about.)  The quirky chapter headings (such as ‘In which we dine en famille and I am perturbed’) also give a sense of the period in which the book is set.

The Illumination of Ursula Flight is great fun and deserves all the curtain calls and cries of ‘Author, Author’ it will no doubt receive.

I received an advance review copy courtesy of publishers, Allen and Unwin, and NetGalley in return for an honest and unbiased review.

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Anna-Marie CrowhurstAbout the Author

Anna-Marie Crowhurst has worked as a freelance journalist and columnist for more than 15 years, contributing to The Times, The Guardian, Time Out, Newsweek, Emerald Street and Stylist. In 2016 she studied for an MA in Creative Writing at Bath Spa University, where her debut novel The Illumination of Ursula Flight was born. She lives in London.

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