I love family history and one branch of my family tree originated in Essex, in fact my grandmother grew up in Leytonstone (which is the next stop on the underground to Leyton) so this book which centres around Peter, an amateur genealogist who comes across a marriage certificate at an antiques fair in Essex was one of those books I simply had to try.
Once Peter buys the certificate for £5.00 he is determined to discover more about the couple, Louisa Crockford and John Williams who married in 1900. Who were the couple? What happened after they married and why was their marriage certificate up for sale when surely it should have been kept by their family?
This story alternates with that of Rosetta Ince beginning in 1898 and Peter’s search in the present. In the past we get to know more about the young draper with ambitions to own her own shop, her hopes and her dreams and the understanding that as a woman at the turn of the century she couldn’t have the marriage and the career it just wasn’t possible.
The groom is off to fight in the Boer war in South Africa. This is not a war knew much about but Stephen Molyneaux’s writing certainly appeared to be well researched. When Rose moves to the Isle of Wight the bond between her and Lousia remains strong with letters and the newly invented postcards made their way between the two women.
I really liked this book, it was strong on the historical aspect which is important to me. It also realistically portrayed quite how easy it is to make assumptions when researching family history, although Peter had more lucky finds than I ever have had! There were plenty of sad moments and I got quite involved, wanting to know the full story. The book concluded on a twist, which although not entirely unexpected, rounded off the story nicely.
This book didn’t have the thriller aspects of my favourite genealogical mystery writers Steve Robinson and Dan Waddell it was an informative and enjoyable read.
Read more about Family History in Fiction in my related post.