Lily: A Tale of Revenge by Rose Tremain - review by Ian Critchley

Ian Critchley

Capital Murder

Lily: A Tale of Revenge


Chatto & Windus 281pp £18.99

Rose Tremain used to chafe against being called a historical novelist, a description that seemed to stick to her after the publication of her breakthrough novel, the Booker Prize-shortlisted Restoration (1989), despite the fact that she has published several novels set in the present. But in recent years she appears to have embraced the genre. Her last three novels are all set in the past: Merivel (2012), a sequel to Restoration, returns to the 1600s, The Gustav Sonata (2016) plays out during and just after the Second World War and Islands of Mercy (2020) is set in the 1860s. Since the publication of Restoration (and, Tremain has suggested, partly because of it), historical fiction has become an increasingly popular genre. She is one of its very best exponents.

In Lily, her fifteenth novel, we are again taken back to the 1860s. Sixteen-year-old Lily Mortimer works at Belle Prettywood’s Wig Emporium on London’s Long Acre. She is good at her job and enjoys an excellent working relationship with Belle, but she is hiding a dark secret: she is

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