disclosure: the item received was sent for the purpose of review
November 2021 saw the release of The Swift and the Harrier by Minette Walters which was published through Allen and Unwin. If you like historical fiction as I do, then this is the book for you.
If you’re of a certain age, then you might remember the TV series, By the Sword Divided from the 1980s which was set during the English Civil War and dealt with a family on different sides of the conflict. The Swift and the Harrier reminds me of that drama, and the predicament so many families faced during that time period. We meet Jayne Swift, a trained physician, in Dorset in 1642. She comes from a family who staunchly supports the King, whilst she remains neutral, offering assistance to the wounded of both sides of the conflict.
Jayne stands out from the crowd, not only for her neutrality but also as a female physician (although she can’t be formally recognised as one) at a time when women are seen as almost second class citizens.
At the start of The Swift and the Harrier, we meet Jayne Swift in Dorchester where she has been called to attend on Lady Alice Strickland. She also meets her footman, William Harrier, although it becomes clear that he is not all that he seems and their paths continue to cross as the story unfolds.
We follow Jayne as she attends firstly a mysterious Royalist and then tends to the wounded Parliamentarians under siege in Lyme Regis. At every turn, Willian Harrier seems to appear in a different guise and supports a different side, but somehow there is something within him to be trusted.
The novel is an enthralling read, and you get drawn into the twists and turns of the Civil War and the King’s inability to relinquish any of his powers for the benefit of the country as a whole. I can thoroughly recommend this book, the characters are believable and Jayne Swift is a strong, central character.