In Review

Lily: A Tale of Revenge by Rose Tremain – packed with ‘picturesque historical detail’

Tremain’s 15th novel, set in Victorian London, is one of her most sparkling

Rose Tremain is one of our “very best exponents” of historical fiction, said Ian Critchley in Literary Review – and her 15th novel is one of her most sparkling.

Set in Victorian London, it tells the story of Lily Mortimer, a 16-year-old seamstress at Belle Prettywood’s Wig Emporium on Long Acre, who was raised at Coram’s Foundling Hospital. Lily nurses a dark secret, said Michael Arditti in the FT: after enduring years of horrendous abuse at Coram, she committed an act of violence which she now fears will come to light. An “ingenious blend” of historical novel, moral fable and fairy story, this is a work that “carries an intense emotional charge”.

It certainly takes skill to “create a homage to the penny dreadful that also works as a satisfying novel”, said Melissa Katsoulis in The Times. But somehow, Tremain has managed it. Packed with “picturesque historical detail” – so that it often “feels more Dickensian than Dickens” – Lily: A Tale of Revenge is the “literary equivalent of all your favourite Christmas telly rolled into one”.

Chatto & Windus 281pp £18.99; The Week Bookshop £14.99

Lily book cover
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To order this title or any other book in print, visit theweekbookshop.co.uk, or speak to a bookseller on 020-3176 3835. Opening times: Monday to Saturday 9am-5.30pm and Sunday 10am-4pm.

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