It is 1740 and Louise Fletcher, a young maid, has been warned of the lure of the sea for as long as she can remember—after all, it stole away her father and brother. But when she is offered work in the bustling naval port of Harwich serving a wealthy captain’s daughter, she leaps at the chance to see more of the world. There she meets Rebecca, her haughty and fascinating mistress.
Intertwined with Louise’s story is that of fifteen-year-old Luke, who is beaten and press ganged, sent to sea against his will on board the warship Essex in the service of His Majesty’s Navy. He must learn fast and choose his friends well if he is to survive the brutal hardships of a sailor’s life and its many dangers, both up high in the rigging and in the dark decks down below.
She Rises brings to vivid life both land and sea in Georgian England, but explores a thoroughly modern and complex love story. Bold, brilliant, and utterly original, She Rises is an accomplished and gripping search for identity and survival.
Bloomsbury USA | June 18, 2013 | 432 pages
She Rises, the debut novel from author Kate Worsley, is quite unlike any historical novel I've read before. Set in England and at sea in the mid-18th century, the story is told from the perspectives of dairymaid turned lady's maid Louise Fletcher, and Luke, a young man pressed into service with the Royal Navy. Louise's narrative focuses on her life as lady's maid to Rebecca, the daughter of a well-to-do sea captain, whose outlook and behaviour is far from ladylike. Captivated by Rebecca, Louise quickly becomes devoted to her, and it isn't long before their relationship deepens. While Louise's story occurs on land, Luke's narrative takes place at sea. Forcibly pressed into service aboard the HMS Essex, Luke struggles to find his place on the warship. Life at sea proves brutal for Luke, who makes few friends and attracts unwanted attention, but it is also exhilarating. As the story moves back and forth between the two narratives, the reader is left to ponder how and in what manner they will converge.
Although the narrative of She Rises seamlessly alternates between Louise and Luke's stories, it is Louise who is the central character in the novel. Louise proves to be the more compelling of the two protagonists, especially as the reader is given very little insight into Luke himself until much later in the novel. While I found Louise's storyline to be the more engaging of the two, both narratives nicely showcase Worsely's ability to create a strong sense of both time and place. This is especially pronounced in the chapters that take place at sea, as I think Worsley has done a fabulous job of capturing the essence of life on ship for the ordinary sailor.
While the writing in this novel is strong, and the story moves along at a steady pace, the book never managed to fully capture my interest. Although told in first person, I didn't feel as if I really got to know either Louise or Luke and, as a result, I never felt entirely invested in their stories. Nor did I understand what it was about Rebecca that drew Louise to her. I had correctly anticipated how Louise and Luke's story lines would converge quite early in the novel, and, unfortunately, this served to lessen the impact for me when their stories finally did come together.
She Rises features subjects not generally found in mainstream historical fiction and I really liked how Worsley depicts them. While the story itself may not have worked as well for me as I had hoped, I think readers who enjoy literary historical novels will find She Rises to be a book well worth reading.
Note: I received a copy of this novel from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.
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About the Author
Kate Worsley was born in Preston, Lancashire, and studied English at University College London. She has worked variously as a journalist, a massage practitioner, and spotlight operator, and has a master’s in creative writing (novels) from City University London. She now lives on the Essex coast. She Rises is her first novel.
I'm pleased to host a giveaway for one copy of She Rises. Here are the giveaway details:
- The giveaway is open to residents of Canada and The United States only;
- To enter simply leave a comment below with your email address;
- The giveaway will be open until midnight (EST) on June 28th;
- The winner will be selected using random. org.