Dark Tides is the second in the Fairmile series from best-selling author Philippa Gregory. The author is well known and respected worldwide for her historical novels which are always professionally researched.
Dark Tides opens in 1670, in Restoration London. A London still recovering from the Civil War, Cromwell’s rule and the great plague and fires of the 1660s. In addition to London the novel travels to New England and Venice – all places dominated by the weather and tides.
The story opens at the shabby warehouse on the Thames in London run by Alinor Reekie and her daughter Alys Stoney, they live a tough existence, on the edge of poverty.
On this Midsummer Eve in 1670 they have two unexpected visitors: Sir James Avery (once Alinor’s lover) and Livia from Venice, the beautiful widow of Alinor’s son Robert. Sir James is not welcomed but Livia is invited to stay as Robert’s widow and the mother of his baby son. Alinor however does not believe her son is dead and does not trust Livia.
Alinor’s brother Ned is making a new life in New England as a ferryman and the novel switches between London and New England. In New England Ned is struggling between friendships with the English settlers and the native Indians, he can see that war is not far away and battles with his loyalties and friendships as well as the day-to-day hardships of life in such a harsh environment.
As the novel progresses we meet Johnnie and Sarah, Alys’ twins who are learning their trades and return to the warehouse at weekends and holidays. Alinor takes Sarah into her confidence and sends her to Venice to find Robert. Its here that Sarah discovers the truth of what happened to her uncle.
I’ve read and enjoyed many of Philippa Gregory’s novels but have to admit I struggled a little to get into this one. I had read Tidelands so knew the history of some of the characters but at the beginning, I did get a bit confused and had to remind myself of their stories and how everyone fitted in. Once I got into the story though I enjoyed it. I felt the novel came alive once Johnnie and Sarah entered the story and Sarah headed off to Venice.
I did not though connect so well with Ned’s story in New England, but it was interesting to learn of the clashes between cultures, a story that was repeated all over the globe as the world was colonised.
Not surprisingly with a title like Dark Tides waterways play a large role in this novel, whether it’s the River Thames, the canals and lagoons of Venice or the rivers and lakes in New England – they impact onto the lives and feelings of the characters.
The novel portrays the harshness of life in the 17th century and the importance of family. The Reekie family will always stand by each other and James Avery is desperate for a family of his own and that leads him to make some poor decisions.
As this is the second in the Fairmile series it will be interesting to see where the series goes from here, which characters will feature in future novels and where they will be based. Will it be London or will it be New England or even Venice? I look forward to finding out.
Many thanks to Beauty and Lace Book Club and Simon & Schuster for the opportunity to read Dark Tides.
A selection of our Beauty and Lace Club Members are reading Dark Tides by Philippa Gregory. You can read their comments below, or add your own review.
I was brought up on the classics in the UK but now I’m a Pozzie (British by Birth, Australian by choice) I’m enjoying discovering Australian works, we have some terrific storytellers. I’ve been a member of a local book club for a decade or so and that has also widened my choice of reading. I agree wholeheartedly with Stephen King: “Books are a uniquely portable magic”