Fiction Awakening Davies Omnivore review

Published on November 4th, 2013


Awakening by Stevie Davies

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Blurb: Wiltshire 1860: One year after Darwin’s explosive publication of The Origin of Species, sisters Anna and Beatrice Pentecost awaken to a world shattered by science, radicalism and the stirrings of feminist rebellion; a world of charismatic religious movements, Spiritualist séances, bitter loss and medical trauma. Fetishist of working women Arthur Munby, irascible antiquary General Pitt Rivers, feminist Barbara Bodichon and other historical figures of the Victorian epoch wander through the backdrop of the novel, as Anna’s anomalous love for Lore Ritter and her friendship with freethinking and ambitious Miriam Sala carry her into areas of uncharted desire while Beatrice, forced to choose between her beloved Will Anwyl and the evangelist Christian Ritter, who marked her out as a wife when she was only a child, is pulled between passion and duty. Each is riven by inner contradictions, but who will survive when the sisters fall into a fatal conflict with one another? (Parthian, 2013)

Helen Dunmore, The Guardian

“Like Charlotte Brontë in Shirley, Davies is funny and perceptive about the clergymen who flock around the sisters, and her social comedy breathes life into an oppressive world. She is lyrical and pitiless in her dissection of religious zeal. Awakening burns with anger against the abuses of the past, while recognising that the present has no right to condescend.”

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Nicholas Murray, The Independent

“Davies has clearly done her homework but there is no trace of the clunky stovepipe-hat-and-zeal properties of the pastiche Victorian novel. Although certain real personages like Philip Gosse, Arthur Munby and the charismatic preacher Charles Spurgeon walk across the stage, there is no attempt to kit them out in cartoon dress. Davies’s quiet, delicate, supple prose creates an utterly believable picture of the inner life of the two women.”

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