Born on the night of an ill-auguring comet just before Charles II’s Restoration, Ursula Flight has a difficult future written in the stars.
Against the custom of the age she begins an education with her father, who fosters in her a love of reading, writing and astrology.
Following a surprise meeting with an actress, Ursula yearns for the theatre and thus begins her quest to become a playwright despite scoundrels, bounders, bad luck and heartbreak.
On the 15 December 1664, the night that ‘a great light bloomed in the sky’ and the Great Bear constellation was clearly visible, Ursula Flight came into this world. Despite all of the superstition and bad omens that the sighting of a comet brought in the 17th century, this was a fortuitous event for her family, particularly her father Clifford, who determined to bring up his clever and feisty daughter to be well educated and ready to face the world.
Falling quickly in love with the written word, Ursula devours every book she can lay her hands on, thankfully the family library is well stocked and her imagination has lots of places to roam. She begins to write her own plays and act them out, giving roles to siblings, friends, the family ‘help’, the dog, and anyone she can rope into play acting with her. A tragic event and an arranged wedding loom into view quickly and Ursula’s life is turned upside down. Taken away from all she knows and married to a much older, miserable man she doesn’t really know, or even like, Ursula tries to find a way through the interminable days without going crazy. When her husband returns to Court and takes her to London with him, the opportunities open up and she knows that even though forbidden, she cannot let these chances pass her by.
Ursula’s story is told beautifully and is interspersed with diary entries, notes and plays she has written. This can be a little odd at first, but you soon get used to it and it’s a clever way of showcasing her skill and letting her say things she wouldn’t perhaps have the opportunity for.
For Game of Thrones fans, Ursula Flight is a real Arya. Full of warmth and humour, caring, honest, gutsy, and with a huge pair of balls. Not afraid to take chances. She doesn’t need a man to make her whole, or to support her, which in 17th century England, was very, very tough, and not something that was easily accepted by society. Despite the treatment she has at the hands of her husband, she doesn’t hate men – quite the opposite, and deserves the sexual awakening we find her enjoying – after all that lying back and thinking of England who would begrudge her! Of course the leading men in her life let her down, but she still risks love, she still takes a chance, and she is the woman she becomes due to the devotion that her father showed her when she was a child.
I hugely enjoyed this book, loved the character of Ursula and the warm, intimate style of writing, which reminded me in places of Sarah Waters work.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher & Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.