Friday 26 November 2021

Join The Coffee Pot Book Club in conversation with #HistoricalFiction author, Oliver Greeves #Nelson @OliverGreeves


Nelson’s Folly

By Oliver Greeves

Publication Date: December 2020
Produced by: Independent Ink
Page Length: 399 Pages
Genre: Historical Fiction

Horatio and Fanny Nelson live, poor but happy, in his father’s damp parsonage in Norfolk.

The French Revolutionary Wars have begun, and as fighting intensifies, Horatio is recalled to sea.

As the years pass and the war rages on, Horatio Nelson becomes a lauded hero, while Fanny loyally manages their affairs back in England. But Horatio’s success in battle has changed him – he’s proud, arrogant, bitter. How can a woman like Fanny, self-reliant but bound by 18th century attitudes, face down the Navy’s superstar without losing everything?

A compelling exploration of duty in all its forms, Nelson’s Folly is a sweeping, historically rich novel based on the true story of Horatio and Fanny Nelson and their lives together – and apart.

“Nelson's Folly is a compelling, vividly portrayed tale that is well grounded in a sense of the changing times… A thoroughly involving Saga rich in psychological, political, and social inspection."
Diane Donovan, Senior Reviewer, Midwest Book Review, USA 

Read the full review here!

Vice-Admiral Horatio Nelson is known by many as the giant figure atop Nelson's Column in London’s central Trafalgar Square, and whose death and final battle is still commemorated by many in the UK on Trafalgar Day, October 21. Nelson’s Folly explores the lives of Nelson, his wife Fanny and her young son Josiah, sent to sea at 13 year old, as they play their various roles as Britain battles for naval superiority as the Revolutionary War begins. 

Thoroughly researched and written by one of Fanny’s descendants, it provides new insights into Fanny and Horatio’s characters, their challenges and London society at that tumultuous time. 

The novel begins with Horatio’s return to the sea in 1792 after the ambitious officer was beached for five years. It ends in 1801, when Fanny, the faithful wife, faces a man who is now a naval hero, blatantly flouting society’s rules by returning with both Emma Hamilton, his exotic lover from Naples, and her husband. 

How I came to write my novel, ‘Nelson’s Folly’.

I like to think I began my writing career at the age of ten, when my brother and I wrote an unbelievably exciting – and original - play about a cowboy town. We acted all the main parts and our mothers, were our audience and dutifully applauded us. I never lost that sense of accomplishment and continued on a journey towards being a “proper writer”. 

When I moved to New York I was able to re-engage with my writing by joining the writer’s hub – the New School in Greenwich Village. New York is full of ambitious writers and arguably the literary capital of the United States. I lived in New York for a total of twenty years on three separate assignments and participated in many writers’ workshops. 

When I moved to Australia and settled in Sydney I joined the NSW Writers’ programme: “A novel in a year” – an ambitious title if there ever was - and started work on what was to become Nelson’s Folly.

What does “Folly” mean?

A folly is a stylised ruin usually found on an escarpment in the grounds of an English country house. It is designed to catch the eye and enhance the view with a warm sense of history. We might say that Nelson’s column has elements of this. There is another meaning, rather more obvious. In this drama, I am unashamedly on the side of my ancestor, Viscountess Francis Nelson. 

Nevertheless, I continue to believe that Horatio was also a most courageous sailor and his famous signal: “England expects every man will do his duty” resonates in the hearts of the English. 

Why Fiction not a Biography?

In writing this story, my appreciation of history merged with my love of writing. Family history fascinates me as does the sea and sailing. I have sailed across the China Sea several times and once helped crew a yacht from Singapore to Hong Kong. I love racing on Sydney Harbour.

I had to tread warily because Horatio Nelson is a most durable hero. After he died, he was enshrined and sainted in biographies for qualities the British admire – bravery, duty and loyalty. 

However, in our times, when statues are being taken down and history re-examined in the light of new political theories, people are more open to exploring the stories behind the myths. When the discovery of new letters between Fanny and Davison, Nelson’s prize agent, threw a fresh light on Fanny’s personality and the relationship between Horatio and Fanny, I realised it was time for this famous story to be reimagined.

Although keen to make my novel historically reliable, I wrote it as fiction so I could use the novelist’s licence to “open up” the story, interpret character, paint the scenes, explore passion and pain and a rattling good yarn which I hope my readers will enjoy.

Pick up your copy at your favourite online bookstore:

Oliver’s grandmother, Bertha Eccles, was the great-great-great-granddaughter of Viscountess Francis Nelson. In response to a young Oliver’s curiosity, she would do was sniff in an Edwardian manner and say: “Dreadful Man!” And that was all she would say. The subject of Horatio and Fanny was “off limits” at the family dinner table which only served to wet his appetite for more information about his ancestor and this fascinating era of history.

Oliver has a PhD in history from Bristol University in the United Kingdom and studied creative writing at the New School in Greenwich Village New York. He worked in Wall Street which informed his understanding of institutions and the psychology of those leading them.  

Oliver now lives in Sydney, Australia. When not writing, he spends his time sailing and mentoring executives. He is currently working on a sequel based on the naval adventures of Fanny’s son Josiah, stepson of Lord Admiral Nelson. For further information about Oliver’s work, see his website:

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Take Care,
Mary Anne xxx