HISTORY | Daily Mail Online
MATRIX by Lauren Groff
by Lauren Groff
(Heinemann £ 16.99, 288 pp)
Marie de France is a curiosity in the elegant court of Queen Aliénor. Raised by her warrior mother and her crusading aunts, all resilient, courageous and resourceful, Marie is just as savage, full of hidden desires and desires and out of step with the intricacies of royal society.
Eleanor seals her fate and sends the lanky girl across the sea to an unexpected and unwanted future as the prioress of a poor convent in a muddy, rain-washed England.
Lauren Groff’s Matrix is simply wonderful; lively and vibrant, it buzzes with the lives of those contained within the walls of the convent, as Mary becomes the ambitious and cunning hub at the heart of this feminine utopia.
There are grudges and gossip, but Mary ensures a prosperous future for this “quiet life of women and of work” with a skill that defies the conventions of the time.
THE WINTER GARDEN by Alexandra Bell
THE WINTER GARDEN
by Alexandra Bell
(Del Rey £ 14.99, 528 pages)
The magic, mystery, and harsh truths of life, even for the most privileged Victorian women, make for fascinating read in this dark yet enchanting fantasy history.
It follows the fates of two unconventional women – expert botanist and illustrator Beatrice Sitwell and the artificial mechanical Rosa Warren, both of whom are unhappy with the choices they have made in life.
An invitation from the Spider Queen (whom Beatrice first met in a magical, nomadic garden at the age of eight) offers them the chance to mend those old regrets by designing a spectacular pleasure garden and winning a wish that allows them to undo a past error.
Bell revel in the two women’s spectacular creations, their inventive gardens are a dazzling backdrop to the rivalry and remorse that engulfs their complicated friendship.
AWARDS by Gayl Jones
by Gayl Jones
(Virago £ 18.99, 512 pages)
Set in 17th-century Brazil, Palmares marries magical realism with an often brutal coming-of-age tale, which tells the story of a slave Almeyda and her quest to find a hidden colony where runaway slaves can live in. as free people. Curious, intelligent and observant, Almeyda learns to read and write, but also receives less conventional life lessons from her grandmother who knows the tradition of plants, experiences mystical visions and has a glorious storehouse of mythological stories.
Sold to different masters, Almeyda travels a landscape as diverse as the people she meets, eventually marrying the charismatic Anninho and settling for a kind of safety in Palmares, which is short-lived.
Large, but intimate and dreamlike intense in the story.