What an amazing book ~ I don’t think I’m going to be able to read anything else for a day or so!
This Rough Ocean is about the fortunes of the Swinfen family in the English Civil War; it’s fiction but much of it is based on the real life adventures of John and Anne Swinfen (Swynfen) and their family; the author’s note at the back gives more information.
John Swynfen is a Member of Parliament, a ‘moderate’, and his family have joined him to live in Westminster from their country estate in Staffordshire, during the time when Charles I has been captured and Cromwell’s men are ransacking the country. John is imprisoned, and Anne must take her family back to Stafford to safety ~ and assume the role of ‘Lord of the Manor’.
I’d say this is probably the ultimate fiction about the period. It’s impeccably and intricately researched, a book of adventure, great hardship, bravery, loss, the brutality within man but the goodness to be found in unexpected places, too; honestly, it’s riveting. I liked the first half very much, when John is safe in Westminster, and the danger around the country is becoming more and more of a threat, but I ADORED the second half, which is told from the alternating points of view of Anne, with all her difficulties managing Swinfen estate, and John, as his life becomes more bleak, the possibility of escape back to his home and family seeming ever more impossible. Also woven into this part of the story is the tale of their wayward eldest son, Dick, who decides to walk from London to Stafford instead of going safely back to school….
In the first third of the book there is a fair bit of political detail which you might find a bit hard going unless you are already well versed in/particularly interested in this aspect, but it’s an education in itself, and the book soon ups its tempo as it moves away from the London political arena and back to the stories of John, Anne and their family. Stick with it!
Ann Swinfen clearly has such insight into all aspects of life at this time, and I felt so involved with the characters all the way through this book; it even made me cry at three separate points. This Rough Ocean is something of a masterpiece ~ I can’t recommend it too highly.
The best historical novel I have read for some time
A beautifully written story, fleshed out with authentic history and realism. I couldn’t put it down, and was sorry to get to the end. I would recommend this to anyone who has enjoyed Sharon Penman or Alison Weir. I can’t wait to read more from Ann Swinfen.