Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Review: Figures in Silk by Vanora Bennett

Title: Figures in Silk
Author: Vanora Bennett
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Harper Collins
Published: 2009
Pages: 496

Rating: 8 out of 10

Figures in Silk, set in the richly detailed world of 15th Century England and the years leading up to the War of the Roses, was the perfect historical fiction read. It had strong, vivid history, well written characters, a perfect blend of realistic daily life and page-turning action, and a bit of romance too.

In the beginning, the heroine of the story, Isabel Shore, is married into a powerful and wealthy silk weaving family, the Clavers. However, only a short while after her marriage, Isabel's husband dies, leaving her a widow. Rather than return to the household of her overbearing father, Isabel determines to make her own way in the world by apprenticing herself to her mother-in-law and learning the silk trade from the bottom up - without pay for ten years. Her efforts eventually pay off as she develops a talent for business and earns the respect of her steely mother-in-law Alice. Meanwhile, Isabel's beautiful sister Jane has become mistress to King Edward IV, and Isabel herself has taken a mysterious man named Dickon as her lover. But as the years pass, Isabel begins to discover startling insight into Dickon's identity, and sees glimpses of a darker side to him than she has come to know. When a war over the very throne of England breaks out, everything Isabel knows and loves is put in danger of unraveling.

I just loved this novel, from start to finish. I like my history to effortlessly transport you to another time and place, and this book did just that.
By the end of the story, I felt that I knew the characters. I especially loved Isabel's prickly mother-in-law, a powerful woman who obviously deserved her acclaimed place in the world.
I hated Dickon, and I wanted to shake Isabel for all of the times that she kept going back to him. But I suppose that my contempt for him just shows that he was well written too, since he is a villain in the book, especially closer to the end.

All in all, I loved the setting and the characters. Before reading this, I only knew the barest basics of the War of the Roses, and I felt this to be a good introduction. I also loved learning more about the European silk trade, since before this book I had only ever come across it in books set in Asia.

Recommended for any lovers of historical fiction.