Birth. Death. Wonder … One woman’s journey to the edge of love and loyalty from the bestselling author of The Lace Weaver.
For those of you who haven’t yet seen Lauren Chater’s launch of Gulliver’s Wife on the Better Reading Facebook page, do so now. There, she explains how a few years ago she took part in a reading challenge, which included Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels. Reading that, she wondered to herself ‘what happened to Mary Gulliver?’ and was compelled to write about her. The result is this absolutely stunning, utterly spellbinding novel, that takes one of literary history’s minor female characters and puts her at the forefront of her own tale. And this is absolutely Mary Burton Gulliver’s tale. Lemuel Gulliver is very much a secondary character here.
London, 1702. Mary Burton Gulliver is a midwife and herbalist, forced to rebuild her life when her husband was lost at sea and declared deceased. She has fought hard over three years to recover from crippling debts and become financially independent. But then Lemuel Gulliver is brought home, fevered and communicating only in riddles about little people, and Mary’s ordered world is turned upside down. She’d had a taste of independence, of the freedom that widowhood could bring, and is now tied again to her abusive husband, and at risk of losing everything she’s fought so hard for.
In a climate of desperate poverty and violence, Mary is caught in a crossfire of suspicion and fear driven by her husband’s outlandish claims, and it is up to her to navigate a passage to safety for herself and her headstrong daughter Bess, and the vulnerable women in her care.
When a fellow sailor, a dangerous man with nothing to lose, appears to hold sway over her husband, Mary’s world descends deeper into chaos, and she must set out on her own journey to discover the truth of Gulliver’s travels . . . and the landscape of her own heart.
Gulliver’s Wife is an evocative women’s story, with a number of themes throughout that still ring true today. Mary’s world is male dominated, yet female centred. Her relationship with her daughter is beautifully explored, and readers today with their own teens will relate – things apparently weren’t that different for mothers three hundred years ago. A number of girls have been attacked and Mary wants to keep her rather rebellious daughter safe. Male doctors are also attempting to make midwives redundant, so themes of male power and patriarchy run through the book.
Lauren’s research is meticulous and the time period and setting vivid and rich in detail. Mary is a strong, compassionate and utterly compelling character, and with her centre-stage, and Lauren’s exquisite writing, you have one absolutely absorbing read.
Lauren’s bestselling debut, The Lace Weaver set her up as an author to watch. Gulliver’s Wife confirms she’s here to stay. Impressive, wise and utterly enthralling.