Goodreads, Historical fiction, Historical Writers'Association Unpublished Novel Award, History, HWA, LisaOwlBeSatReading, Maggie Richell-Davies, Maya Angelou, The Crimson Petal and the White, The Servant
Although our blog has covered the pain of impostor syndrome before – see Maggie’s Kafka sketch of February 7th 2020 – we feel it deserves another mention, especially if it is preventing you from doing your own writing. We are none of us impostors. If we write, we are writers…
Yet most of us do struggle from time to time with the impostor syndrome – the suspicion that we are not proper writers at all, but frauds. That we should take repeated rejections at face value and instead devote our time to learning Mandarin or perfecting our tennis serve. But ninevoices urge you not to give up. To persevere. Because only by persistence will you get a short story published; a book deal; a review of your work that makes your heart sing and all your hard work worth while.
In the last few days Lisa the Book Owl (website OwlBeSatReading) has published a review of Maggie Richell-Davies’ debut novel, The Servant, on both WordPress and Goodreads. Maggie has been rejected many, many times over the years – and written about the experience on this blog – but has refused to lay down either her pen or abandon her keyboard. That is why she has finally been published and why she is gaining some gratifying reviews.
Below is what Lisa has written about her book:
‘Once again, I appear to have chosen historical fiction that’s earned itself a place on my ‘best of 2022’ goodreads shelf.
Maggie Richell-Davies should never doubt her ability to spin a good yarn, The Servant had me hooked from the very first chapter.
Maggie contacted me on Twitter, asking if I would be interested in reading her novel, and on reading the synopsis, I had the feeling it would be the kind of story I’d enjoy.
Disgraced aristocracy, a house full of mysteries; including a locked library, the main character being able to secretly read and write, and characters so vile and despicably realistic, I wanted to shout and swear at them! What’s not to love when a story gives you all the ‘feels’.
The Servant reminded me in many ways of Michel Faber’s The Crimson Petal and the White, a firm favourite of mine. The foulness and stench of the setting, the superbly immersive writing, the crass language. So much research went into this creative masterpiece. I’ve learned so much, having to look up words throughout, all adding to my enjoyment. To be both educated and entertained whilst experiencing an author’s imaginative story-telling is essential to the reading experience. It was the most memorable history lesson.
From the description of what people were wearing, to intricate detail of the furnishings, The Servant ticked every box. I couldn’t fault it.
“The Chinese cabinet is the thing I admire the most in that room because of the figures in strange costumes inlaid in the black lacquered wood. There is a river with two people on a hump-backed bridge, lovers perhaps, picked out in mother-of-pearl. A willow weeps from the sloping shore, with a building that might be a temple in the distance and a long-legged bird circling above. The lady holds a curious-looking umbrella and the couple look to be whispering beneath it. I would love to know their story.”
How clear is that piece of furniture in your mind’s eye from that perfect description?
The reactions of characters had me smiling, laughing, and visualising with ease.
“Perhaps she was a beauty in her youth, before her face turned to porridge.”
The way the opinions, thoughts and situations related to present day rang true throughout.
“The rich get away with everything,” Peg mutters, at my shoulder. “Always have. Always will.”
As I reluctantly came to the end of the story (I took my time, taking two weeks to finish as I loved it too much to let it go so soon!) the ‘End Note’ was simply the icing on this glorious historical cake. When an author takes time to explain their story, and its roots, it gives the reader more understanding and a bit of closure. I needed it because I was sad to see Hannah, Peg and Thomas go.
The Historical Writers’ Association (HWA) selected The Servant for their HWA/Sharpe Books Unpublished Novel Award 2020. It was completely deserving of this accolade and I’m hoping somebody, somewhere will take this gem of a novel under their wing and create a tv adaptation or film – I’d watch it with relish!
The Servant is an astonishing story of one woman’s steely determination. Do add it to your TBR piles, make a ‘Beat The Backlog’ exception for this one, because it is EXCEPTIONAL historical fiction. I will be recommending it to everyone.
Thank you, Maggie, for sending me a copy to review. It was a beautiful, dark pleasure.’
Maggie is naturally ecstatic at this generous review and warns that she might have to buy larger-sized hats, since her head is becoming ridiculously swollen. More importantly, though she hopes that her example will keep you writing and submitting.
Her book is still available on Amazon, with the Kindle/ebook version a modest £1.99.