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Sovay by Celia Rees

Sovay (2008)

by Celia Rees

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Sovay was enough to keep me mildly entertained, which is why I didn’t quit partway through. But it didn’t make much of a lasting impression, and you won’t find me begging people to run out and read it ASAP. Not bad, per se, but not amazing, either.

Full review is posted on Erin Reads. ( )
  erelsi183 | Oct 2, 2014 |
Sovay is a bit of a spoiled young aristocrat, unused to obeying rules or following social conventions. When her fiance cheats on her with a chambermaid, Sovay decides to masquerade as a highwayman and test his love for her. When he fails her test, it marks the beginning of a chain of events that leads to the possible destruction of her family. Set during the French Revolution, Sovay becomes embroiled in politics, adventure, and romance. My main complaint is that it felt like the author was trying to squash too much into one novel. Characters kept getting introduced but were not really developed. ( )
  TheMadHatters | Apr 24, 2014 |
Very disappointing, considering how good Rees usually is. Flat characters, lots of weirdly loose plot lines, haphazard action, and an implausible villain made this a painful slog. ( )
  paperloverevolution | Mar 30, 2013 |
I picked three French Revolution novels from the library catalogue, two YA and one historical fiction, and I have to say that Celia Rees' fast-paced and well researched story, about a daring young woman who follows her father to revolutionary Paris, beats the 'adult' novel into a cocked hat. If there is one way to lure teens into reading about history, Celia Rees knows the answer - dress up the dry dates and boring social customs in adventure and only give young readers time to think after finishing the story!

Sovay Middleton is a brave and forthright young heroine, both sympathetic and inspiring. I must admit to being a little apprehensive of the initial premise - Sovay turns highway robber in a bid to test her lover's affections - but Rees meets the challenge with humour and high spirits. Based on a traditional ballad - 'Sovay, Sovay, all on a day/She dressed herself in man's array' - Rees' Sovay does find out if her spineless fiance is 'a man or no', but that, fortunately, is only the beginning of the story. What opens as a girls' own adventure quickly develops into a gripping tale of spies, revolution and betrayal, with gothic castles, hot air balloons and a dash of romance thrown in for good measure. Sovay uses her masculine alter ego to set right a few personal grievances, but also to access places normally denied to young women in late eighteenth century London, like the seedier underworld of the city. The appropriately revolutionary themes of liberty and equality are weaved throughout the narrative with subtle skill by the author, who uses Sovay's frustration to highlight the double standards of the times, but never at the cost of the heroine. Nor did I feel like I was being beaten over the head with the feminist manifesto, which so often occurs when writing about women in historical novels - but as Celia Rees writes in her notes, 'It is a common assumption that, to have the ring of authenticity, an eighteenth century heroine has to a passive, stay at home kind of girl, but these were turbulent times'. To tread that thin line between realism and revision is no mean feat, and I admire the author for getting the blend just right - Sovay knows her place, and various male relatives and associates insist on trying to 'protect' her throughout, but circumstances ultimately force her to act outside of gender, class and society, though never out of character.

What really made Sovay such an enjoyable read for me, and a vast improvement on the other French Revolution novel I tackled this week, was how lively and engrossing the story was. I believed in Sovay and the other characters, and even the scenery came to life for me, thanks to Celia Rees' vivid descriptions of London and Paris. The Revolution is also recounted fairly, with hope for the future, but despairing of the many atrocities committed in the name of freedom: 'What is happening now is an anomaly. It is a diversion, not part of that great movement of change. It has to stop. In the name of the Revolution. All this killing has to stop.'

Definitely recommended, to readers of all ages! Teens will love the action and intrepid young heroine, older readers will enjoy the fantastic plot, which is melodramatic and improbable, but good fun! Sovay's highwayman disguise put me in mind of the old Gainsborough film The Wicked Lady, with Margaret Lockwood and James Mason, while Dysart the cackling villain reminded me of Orczy's Chauvelin. ( )
1 vote AdonisGuilfoyle | May 27, 2012 |
What would you do if your family was in trouble but because of who you were, and you couldn't help them?
Sovay is a young girl living during the time of the French Revolution. Her family is very involved in the politics of England and France. Being involved in the politics leads to Sovay's brother and father to have gone missing. With no mother this leaves Sovay in charge of the house and in charge of finding her missing brother and father, but Sovay is a girl.
Sovay needs to figure out a way to find out what happened to her brother and father. She dresses up as a highway man and goes out to find clues on what happened to her family. After one innocent act of a highway man she keeps repeating the crime. Sovay winds up making enemies with a very influential man in England.
Sovay finds her brother and they find out where their father is. They can't go home because Sovay's enemy is waiting for them. Sovay has to put everything on the line to save her father, even love.
I give Sovay by Celia Rees three stars. The book was thrilling and adventurous, but it was also stretched out and confusing.
The beginning of the story was confusing. There were so many different people that it was hard to follow who was who. The beginning didn't give a clear explanation of who people were. Once I hit the climax I started to understand the people a little bit better, but not completely. The characters that I could follow were very realistic and portrayed very well.
The story plot was hard to follow. I think the beginning was dragged out too long. I think there was too much side story and description. If you cut out have of the description it still would be just a little too much. All the description made parts of the book very boring to read. Once I hit the climax the story became easier to follow and more interesting.
Sovay fell in love during the book. I love books with romance in them, but this romance again was hard to follow. I didn't really understand who it was that Sovay liked until the end of the novel. I think the author could have been a little clearer on Sovay's feelings regarding love.
The story was thrilling! I loved the idea of it, sneaking around and leading double lives. I also like how it was historical fiction. I think the author did a good job describing the historical parts, but could have been a little clearer on them.
Over all Sovay by Celia Rees was a good book with it's few downfalls. It was like a good looking and smelling pizza with a burnt bottom. ( )
  ctmsjisc | Feb 5, 2012 |
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Sovay rode out early while the dew was still wet on the grass.
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It’s England, 1783. When the rich and beautiful Sovay isn’t sitting for portraits, she’s donning a man’s cloak and robbing travelers—in broad daylight. But in a time when political allegiances between France and England are strained, a rogue bandit is not the only thing travelers fear. Spies abound, and rumors of sedition can quickly lead to disappearances. So when Sovay lifts the wallet of one of England’s most powerful and dangerous men, it’s not just her own identity she must hide, but that of her father.
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In 1794 England, the rich and beautiful Sovay, disguised as a highwayman, acquires papers that could lead to her father's arrest for treason, and soon her newly-awakened political consciousness leads her and a compatriot to France during the Revolution.… (more)

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