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London in Chains (2009)

by Gillian Bradshaw

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707384,203 (3.66)5
An English Civil War novel from a highly-acclaimed author - London, 1647. Lucy Wentor, a young lady who was attacked by soldiers during the civil war, and then rejected by her sweetheart, hopes to start her life afresh in the capital with her uncle and aunt. London, however, is in chaos and her once well-to-do uncle is now almost bankrupt. Unwilling to go home, Lucy finds a job in publishing and excitement, love and independence soon follow.… (more)
  1. 10
    Beacon at Alexandria by Gillian Bradshaw (TomWaitsTables)
  2. 10
    A Corruptible Crown by Gillian Bradshaw (TomWaitsTables)
    TomWaitsTables: Sequel.
  3. 00
    The Vizard Mask by Diana Norman (nessreader)
    nessreader: Both rewarding hist novels about the Stuart civil war, set in a richly described London, with heroines on the make and a country in flux. If you loved one, please look out for the other.

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In her latest historical fiction novel, Gillian Bradshaw explores the English Civil War through the eyes of a young farmgirl named Lucy Wentor. Having been assaulted by soldiers and tired of being a constant reminder to her family of their failure to protect her, Lucy travels to London where she hopes to take shelter with her wealthy uncle and aunt. However, her uncle’s finances have been strained and destroyed by the war, and her aunt makes it clear that the household has no room for charity. In an attempt to earn her keep, Lucy finds herself stitching pamphlets for an underground printer, and soon becomes engrossed in the printing process and the ideas they print.

Bradshaw is well known for her meticulously researched and descriptive historical fiction, and this is a prime example. The opening chapter paints a bleak, gritty, gloomy picture of the London which greets Lucy, yet she still finds it new and exhilarating. Bradshaw’s characters provoke emotion, especially Lucy’s aunt Agnes, a bitter and angry woman mourning the loss of her children. My personal ignorance of the English Civil War made it a bit of a challenge to understand the various historical players and events in the novel, but this is no fault of the author or her writing. ( )
  resoundingjoy | Jan 1, 2021 |
I should say up front that I love this book and it's sequel. I read very few books more than once and I have read both London in Chains and A Corruptible Crown several times. However, I do have some problems that grate on me in these books.

First of all, Lucy and her 21st century, independent, free thinking woman attitude just doesn't wash with the time period. No amount of justifying or rationalising can make Lucy's character believable in a 17th century context.

Secondly, as an independent, sometimes excessively opinionated 21st century woman myself, Lucy comes across as shrewish even to me. Her outrage over every offence or misplaced word and her constant man bashing is really really irritating. Furthermore, I think Ms Bradshaw took the readers sympathy in these issues for granted and often didn't bother to justify Lucy's often excessive outrage over minor indiscretions. As a result, Lucy often comes across as nagging, self righteous and overly sensitive.

Lastly, I don't feel the reasons for the Levellers beliefs and ultimately the English Civil War were well explained at all. Throughout the book we hear about the leveller cause, Lucy's passionate pursuit for justice and her revilement of the different leaders involved in this issue but the nature of their evil deeds was never well explained. As someone new to this time in history, I found myself wondering 'why are they so against Charles I?' 'What is Cromwell trying to achieve?' 'What outcome are the levellers fighting for?' None of this was explained. ( )
  Charli30902 | Jan 5, 2017 |
While this is a romance, that is not its strength. The romantic elements are not really developed as opposed to the historical context and background that Ms. Bradshaw provides us in what becomes an excellent glimpse into a time that perhaps most know little about.

London, after the victory of Parliament over Charles I was not all celebration and happiness, but was in turmoil, the victors fighting over the spoils of war as happens frequently when the victors are not led by one mind. We see this as our heroine comes to London for the first time and has to deal with allies who were oppressors, family that loves and hates her, and a city that is tightly held in an inflationary spiral which happens when a country has been beset by a war that has ravished it.

Add the religious pressures that Parliament was suffering as well to this mix where all those who know the truth of their vision of god tried to wrest control of the nation, and London is indeed in Chains as Ms Bradshaw names the book. What we see also is the rise of printing in this era and a comment that is made, about how no General would dare go to war without their own press, (which reminds me a great deal of Douglas Macarthur) and we see that our Heroine is poised to show us a glimpse of this period that I had no idea of. Before this work, I thought Parliament won, Charles was incarcerated and eventually Parliament voted to behead him, and then Cromwell was made supreme. Yet much was to be done before that happened as I now know. (I am a product of the US education system)

Though there is a romance for our Heroine, and some little time is devoted to it, it does not seem fully fledged as the hero of this action is taken away off stage. That there is some interaction and words between hero and heroine to put the building blocks for a relationship and that they view each other philosophically similarly might breed true, but still, if romance be ones first inclination, more should take place. If History is what you would like to delve into in a period piece, than look no further for the period of 1647 and 1648 one can do little better. At every turn of the page Ms Bradshaw is able to add depth to her world, painting with words details that little occurred to me, but that I think all would find enriching. I recommend this to those who find history of an interest in their reading. ( )
  DWWilkin | Nov 1, 2014 |

As someone who is not overly familiar with the English Civil War, I am happy to say that I did not have trouble following the history of this story. Setting the period between the major phases of the wars was smart as it provided background to what came before, as well as setting the scene for the future. Gillian Bradshaw felt like a reliable source in terms of historical accuracy (but again, this is not my period), which is always refreshing.

Giving Lucy a job as a printer allowed Bradshaw to go into the political and social details of the day in a realistic and engaging way that prevented the need for info-dumping.

The one down side for me was that the ending somewhat set up the sequel, which is a writing device that I strongly dislike as it usually prevents complete closure of the story. ( )
  emmytuck | Sep 27, 2013 |
To say that I read this book in one sitting is to give it too much credit; the beans needed to cook through, and that takes a while, so I just sat there, and read. Bradshaw is a perfectly competent historical novelist, but she is ill-at-ease in the early modern. I loved Lucy, and was mildly charmed by Jamie, but most of the other characters, and their dialogue, is one dimensional (Agnes, exhibit A). The political scenes have the taste of info dumps, and the anachronistic feminism is glaring — at one point, a character literally uses the phrase "equal pay for equal work." The Bradshaw I read a few months ago was so much better than this I won't write her off, but this was a disappointment. ( )
  cricketbats | Mar 31, 2013 |
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. . . the people's expectations that were much greatened, and their hopes of relief in their miseries and oppressions, which were so much heightened, are like to be frustrate, and while you look for peace and freedom the flood-gates of slavery, oppression and misery are opened to the nation.

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It was as though they were riding into Hell.
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An English Civil War novel from a highly-acclaimed author - London, 1647. Lucy Wentor, a young lady who was attacked by soldiers during the civil war, and then rejected by her sweetheart, hopes to start her life afresh in the capital with her uncle and aunt. London, however, is in chaos and her once well-to-do uncle is now almost bankrupt. Unwilling to go home, Lucy finds a job in publishing and excitement, love and independence soon follow.

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