Author of two biographies and one previous novel, Pollard, Laura Beatty now blends these genres in Darkling, which weds the life of 21st-century researcher Mia Morgan (fictional) to that of her real historical subject, Lady Brilliana Harley (1598–1643). Through Mia we learn of Brilliana’s marriage, motherhood, Puritanism and defence of Brampton Bryan Castle under Royalist siege in the Civil War. As Mia struggles to reconstruct her subject we witness the developments in her own life as well as the process of biography. Very metafictional – or metabiographical, perhaps.
The seamless transitions between historical source and fictional narrative are gratifying. In one breath Mia is reading a ‘diligent local record’, in the next we’re told that ‘Thomas Jukes, a bauling, bould, confident person … would make noe more account of Sir Humphrey, than if hee had been a plow-boy.’