Monday 16 March 2020

#BookReview — The Pearl of York, Treason and Plot by Tony Morgan #HistoricalFiction @tadmorgans

The Pearl of York, Treason and Plot
By Tony Morgan

A gripping historical novel, perfect for the lovers of CJ Sansom and SJ Parris, set in the atmospheric streets and buildings of Tudor York. When Margaret Clitherow is arrested for illegally harbouring Catholic priests in The Shambles, her friends, led by a youthful Guy Fawkes, face a race against time to save her from the gallows. As events unfold, their lives, and our history, change forever. Margaret, known as the Pearl of York, and Guy, famous for his role in the Gunpowder Plot, were raised by prosperous Protestant families. Both became Catholic enemies of the state. What events could persuade a happily married woman to consider martyrdom, or transform a young Yorkshireman into a terrorist?

"Hell is a place on Earth. It's located within a tower in London..."

I tell them only this — that I, John Johnson, from Netherdale in Yorkshire, wanted to blow *[1] you Scotch beggars back to your native mountains. I must not tell them the truth. I must hold strong even as they turn the screws, even as my body breaks. I am the most loyal of men. They will not hear the truth from me. I will not give them the names of my fellow conspirators. Nor will I tell them my real name.

I may not be able to escape their bonds or this tower, but my mind will always be free. I must take myself away from here, away from their questions and their torture. So, I will fly back to York, to the place where it all began and to the woman who inspired me. 

Margaret Clitherow was the bravest woman I ever met, and so, in my time of suffering, I will think of her. Margaret, The Pearl of York, endured their torment. And so will I.

At times harrowing, The Pearl of York, Treason and Plot by Tony Morgan is the captivating story of a young Guy Fawkes as he stumbles precariously into a world of religious intolerance, torture, and martyrism.

Oh, how I invested my heart into this book. The emotional commitment that Morgan demands of his readers is absolute. The Pearl of York, Treason and Plot grabbed me from the opening sentence and as I cherished every syllable, every word, every sentence I could not help but wonder how I had never heard of one of England's greatest martyrs, Saint Margaret Clitherow — the Shining Pearl of York. Her story is one of religious piety. Her steadfast devotion to a religion that was illegal, her sham of a trial and her subsequent brutal execution has not only been brought vividly back to life, but it has also shed light on a foreign, shameful past, where the whims of a nation were as changeable as its weather. 

Morgan describes this fraught and dangerous time through the eyes of Guy Fawkes, and he goes some way in explaining how a fifteen-year-old schoolboy went from a being a promising scholar who hoped to study the law to one of the most infamous and remembered conspirator in English history. As the fireworks light up the sky on November 5th, and as bonfires blaze with effigies of the man who was caught under the House of Lords with 36 barrels of gunpowder, the story of Guy Fawkes has endlessly fascinated generation after generation. James Sharpe, professor of history at the University of York once describe Fawkes as being *[2] "the last man to enter Parliament with honest intentions." Fawkes had always been clear of his goal — of course, the outcome was not what he would have wanted. But this book isn't about the night when the conspirators were betrayed. It is about a young man who is seduced by his mother's faith and becomes embroiled in the affairs of the small and hidden Catholic community that Margaret Clitherow created. This is a story of intolerance and hate, but it is also one of first love and survival against impossible odds. It is a book in a million. This novel is a hidden gem that one happily stumbles upon from time to time.

Morgan is determined to wring every last essence of emotions from his readers, and he has achieved his aims most admirably. This book made me cry, it made me smile, it made me angry, and it made me pensive. The Pearl of York, Treason and Plot is one of those books that once read you can never forget. The narrative is too enthralling, the prose is crisp, the characters are compelling, and the setting is as luxuriously detailed as it is lucid. Morgan has peeled away the layers of over 400 years of history and has written something fresh, vibrant and totally unputdownable.

The hours of research that Morgan has dedicated to this story has to be commended. No stone, it seems, has been left unturned while Morgan pieced together the history and what one might call the folklore which surrounds many of the characters in this book. Reading this book is like taking a step back in time. Words cannot describe how well Morgan has woven the history of this period with a tale that is not only vastly entertaining and compelling addictive but one that also makes the reader pause and ask, what were they thinking? And who came up with such terrible torturous punishments and executions? It is beyond comprehension. At the close of this book, I felt a very real sense of grief for Margaret and for Fawkes as well because we all know how his life ended — at least he fell from the ladder on his way to the noose and thus did not have to endure the agonising and protracted death of a traitor.

The Pearl of York, Treason and Plot by Tony Morgan is a heartbreaking book that grabs you from the first page and does not let you go until the last full-stop. I cannot praise this book enough. It was absolutely brilliant from beginning to end. This is an example of Historical Fiction at its most exquisite.

 I Highly Recommend.

Review by Mary Anne Yarde.
The Coffee Pot Book Club. 

* [1] Cobbett, William (1857), A History of the Protestant Reformation in England and Ireland, Simpkin, Marshall and Company
* [2] Sharpe, J. A. (2005), Remember, Remember: A Cultural History of Guy Fawkes Day, Harvard University Press.

Pick up your copy of
The Pearl of York, Treason and Plot

Tony Morgan

Tony Morgan is a Welsh author and university academic. He lives in North Yorkshire, near to the birthplace of Guy Fawkes and Margaret Clitherow. In addition to writing historical novels, Tony also gives history talks covering the events of the Gunpowder Plot and Margaret Clitherow’s life. To date, all profits from his novels and talks have been donated to good causes. In 2020, Tony’s supporting St Leonard’s Hospice in York. For more details, visit Tony’s website.

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See you on your next coffee break!
Take Care,
Mary Anne xxx