Inspirational female authors: Helen Dunmore

To celebrate 2018 being the centenary of women’s right to vote, we are reviewing one book a month by a female author. We started things off last month, on International Women’s Day, with ‘The Power’ by Naomi Alderman.

For April, I’ve chosen the poignant ‘Birdcage Walk’ by Helen Dunmore. As we are celebrating female authors, I felt it was appropriate to choose a novel that explores how a female writer from the eighteenth century could be completely forgotten by history.

‘Birdcage Walk’ is set in Bristol during the outbreak of the French Revolution. The main character is Lizzie Fawkes, a young woman conflicted by the ideals instilled in her by her radical, writer mother and her sense of duty to her husband. We witness how all the characters are affected by the revolution in Europe. Lizzie’s feminist mother and her friends welcome the change that the revolution promises. But for Lizzie’s husband, a property developer, the uncertainty the revolution creates means disaster.

I thought the plot was brilliantly unpredictable and all the characters were complex and well rounded. I felt the prologue added an interesting perspective as before we even meet any of the protagonists, we learn that their story will be almost entirely lost to history.

My favourite aspect of ‘Birdcage Walk’ is how personal it feels, as despite being historical fiction it gives an intimate view of one family’s life.

See you in May for our next review.

Philippa, Brompton Library

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