One of the best things about being a book blogger is finding those hidden treasures of a book, one of which is The Dissent of Annie Lang. Anne Cater asked if I would like to be part of this Blog Tour and I jumped at the chance to find out more about Annie, the daughter of a strict religious father who dissents against all she was bought up to believe, especially as the setting is the 1920s and 1930s. I read the entire book in one day, something I rarely do unless I’m sick – that’s how much I enjoyed it and so I’m delighted to be kicking off this Blog Tour with my review.
The book starts with a tantalising prologue where we meet Annie in 1932 on her return from France where she’s been studying. Here she learns that her brother Fred is in the asylum with nervous exhaustion and this stirs memories from her childhood which she’s never fully understood.
The story is told from Annie’s perspective through all three parts of the book; 1926, 1926 to 1932 and finally 1932. Her earliest memories we are told are backed up by journals she wrote as a young girl following the death of her mother when Annie was just six. Annie has an older sister Beatrice and a brother Fred and a dog Nana. She remembers happier times when her mother was alive but following her death Annie is labelled troublesome and in need of a firm hand. A housekeeper Agnes is employed to take the household in hand. Her Grandfather is the pastor at the fundamentalist church he set up in Nottinghamshire. Sundays are spent worshipping and strict adherence to the bible is expected at all times.
It didn’t take me long to become immersed in Annie’s world and the doses of cod liver oil and maids lighting fires, boarding school for Fred and visiting the sick for Agnes, who soon became the second Mrs Lang, all set the time period nicely without the author making her meticulous research obvious. In fact for much of the book, I was convinced that this was based on a true story as it felt so authentic.
Although part of The Dissent of Annie Lang is set in her early childhood and she isn’t a particularly precocious child, the reader is well aware that she is noting the events that she believes will solve the mystery, of what became of her Sunday School Teacher Millie Blessing. She turns the memories this way and that for clues and this clever device means that although we are told of her initial delight when Nana sprayed the new wallpaper with beetroot juice by wagging her tail, and witness her dismay when the punishment means that the dog is banished to a kennel in the garden, it is the undertones of this household that are brought to the fore. This is a house where young Annie understands that some things are never to be mentioned, what she doesn’t understand is what subjects are banned, and as for the reason why, she has no clue. Her sister, older by six years, knows more but is tight-lipped and far more religious than Annie believes she will ever be.
The characters are brilliantly depicted, Annie’s friendship with Marjorie Bagshaw in particular, the two girls thrown together because of where they live have little in common and the delicate tussle of power is shown as both keep secrets when it will be to their advantage, at one point Annie admits that neither particularly likes the other. Of course Annie herself is everything I enjoy in a character, spirited and determined and absolutely realistic, she holds her own against the seemingly impervious pillars of religion and the point in history where children, and women, have a very small voice indeed.
This historical story is definitely one of my finds of the year. The language so persuasive, the story grabbed me from the start and I was as anxious as Annie to know the fate of Millie Blessing and her beautiful blue shoes. I often try to avoid speaking about the ending of a book for obvious reasons but this one hit absolutely the right spot – there isn’t a neat wrap-up, but there is certainly enough to be absolutely satisfying given what has gone before.
I am grateful to Anne Cater for inviting me to take part in this blog tour for Muswell Press, this unbiased review is my thanks to them and of course a huge thank you to Ros Franey for creating such a memorable story, this book is one that really does deserve to be shouted about. If you love history and a mystery, then I wholeheartedly recommend The Dissent of Annie Lang.
Don’t forget to follow the rest of the Blog Tour to learn more!
About the Author
Ros Franey grew up in Nottingham where this book is set. She is a maker of award-winning documentaries, including two films about the Guildford 4 which, along with the book she co-authored Timebomb, contributed to the quashing of their case. This is her second novel. She lives in Camden, North London.