The Illumination of Ursula Flight
by Anna-Marie Crowhurst
Book #2 in the 2019 Rare Birds Reading Challenge
Born on the night of an ill-auguring comet just before Charles II’s Restoration, Ursula Flight has a difficult future written in the stars.
Against the custom of the age she begins an education with her father, who fosters in her a love of reading, writing and astrology.
Following a surprise meeting with an actress, Ursula yearns for the theatre and thus begins her quest to become a playwright despite scoundrels, bounders, bad luck and heartbreak.
“The Illumination of Ursula Flight” was the book of the month for the
Rare Birds Book Club in February. I’m a couple of weeks behind due to a mix up with the postage, but I’m pleased to say that this book was worth the wait.
Urusla Flight is a young girl living in the 1600s, a time I knew very little about and actually had to Google to get an idea of what the characters and places might look like. I’m not usually one for historical fiction this historical and would never have thought I’d have enjoyed a book set during the restoration of Charles II, but this really was a sheer delight!
When we first meet her, Ursula is a plucky young girl indulged by her father. He teaches her to read, learn languages, science and mathematics and then he marries her off to a man 20 years her senior. Ursula doesn’t have it easy. Her parents don’t listen to her, she’s separated from her friends and she’s married against her will to a husband who doesn’t seem to be that keen on her either.
This is definitely an original book and I’ve not read something in this style in a long time. Despite my lack of knowledge of this time period, I think the author did a great job of painting a picture of what it might have been like. As expected in the 17th century, some pretty terrible things happen to Ursula, but this book certainly is not without humour. The author also livens things up by using a variety of modes including letters, play scripts and hidden notes to be burned after reading, as well as quirky chapter titles giving you a peek of what’s coming next.
“A film of sweat broke across my back – I was not gravely ill with a lethal bleeding; I would not burst out in pulsing buboes and end the day consigned, by my elbow, to a plague-cart. Nay, it was much, much worse: I was become a woman and could now bear children!”
If any criticism, I’d say the book was about 50-100 pages too long with some lengthy descriptions we could have done without, but this seems to be my criticism of most books these days!
Overall rating: Another great choice from the Rare Birds Book Club. “The Illumination of Ursula Flight” is a fun, quirky tale of a young girl growing up in the 17th century. Very different to what I would normally choose but I enjoyed it and it’s 4 stars from me.