What an exuberant novel this is - full of energy, atmosphere, idiom, and colour. She Rises by Kate Worsley is a debut, and an impressive one, a piece of character and integrity (it has a very pleasing sense of identity and wholeness about it), and one that has been crafted and buffed smooth.
Keep in mind the epigraph, which is from Swinburne's The Triumph of Time, and then we'll go on -
"I shall sleep, and move with the moving ships, / Change as the winds change, veer in the tide, / I will go back to the great sweet mother, / Mother and lover of men, the sea. / I will go down to her, I and no other, / Close with her, kiss her and mix her with me."
I shan't say much about the plot other than that it's set in Essex in 1740 when dairymaid Louise Fletcher goes to work in the port of Harwich as maid to a sea captain's daughter. This new world in a prosperous and almost exclusively female household serving a selfish and thoughtless young mistress takes much adjustment on the part of Louise, but while her proximity to the sea is unnerving - for it claimed the life of her father, and possibly that of her brother, too - she is both fascinated and perturbed by the novelty, the flooding of the streets at spring tide, the network of smugglers' passages connecting houses in its narrow lanes, and the nearness of sailors, that rough crew from whom she may just be able to discover something about her brother's fate.
Louise's story is interwoven with that of Luke, pressganged in a tavern and taken to serve on the warship Essex. Luke soon finds that life aboard is tough in every respect, and whether below decks or aloft in the rigging in a heavy sea, he must watch himself and choose his friends carefully on what becomes for him both "a floating prison" and "a vessel of hope". How his fate is linked to Louise's is for you to discover as you read the book.
This is a love story, an adventure, it has action aplenty, intrigue and secrets. It is a sensuous book with its roots deep in a real place, and as its tale of "disguise, deceit and deception" unfolds, it does so with vigour. If at times the plot takes an implausible turn or two, then in keeping with its subject matter it's riding the waves of fiction and moving with the story's swell.
Just by the way, we're used to matching our reading and our eating via Books & Cakes, but how about pairing literature and crockery in Books & Plates - this Stratus Swirl Platter from Anthropologie goes perfectly with the book's beautiful jacket by Holly Macdonald!