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The Illumination of Ursula Flight

Very occasionally a book comes along that will live with you for a long, long time. This is the one. A very special, beautifully written book, which has delightful characters, is true to the period in history, and structured in such a way as to amuse and captivate the reader. The font, the front cover illustrations, and the language all reflect the 17 Century in England, when Charles II was king, and women had their place.

Ursula was born at the same time a comet made its way through the skies. Being the first surviving child, she was much loved and inspired by her father. He took charge of her education, and as well as teaching her reading, writing and maths, he took her outside at night to view the constellations. She was named after the star in the Great Bear constellation, and proud to share that with her father. Growing up with freedom, love and education, Ursula became an intelligent, witty and perceptive young lady. She practised writing scripts for plays which she and her friends would act out.

Unfortunately, when she was fifteen, her father died, and her mother promised her to an older man who desired to marry her. The girl describes her future husband as “Smelly, bog- eyed, and boring as hell.” Not a promising start for a life time relationship. The story is saved from being dismal, through the clever way the author portrays Ursula managing her new life. When her husband would lie on top of her and demand a star shaped body, she said that her mother had informed her it was a sin to lie with a man who had not captured her heart. Being very virtuous and religious, this caused a halt to proceedings.

Not surprisingly, Lord Tyringham and his new bride did not have a long marriage. On removing to London, Ursula discovered the theatre, and realised that she could indeed be involved by writing plays. Her natural liveliness, insight and wit, made sure that the audience understood her meaning.

The story is told in such a creative way, it is a delight to turn each page and see what method is used to continue the story. It is a narrative interspersed with letters, diaries, lists, plays and scripts. There is a unique use of font, and the chapter headings are listed in an entertaining way. For example, “chapter VII REGIMEN, In which I describe our daily life, such as it is:  and chapter VIII BEDDING, In which I muse on the duties of wifehood, (and also when I practise the conjugation of Latin verbs.”)  The diary entries, and scripts from plays and lists, all help reveal Ursula’s inner thoughts and feelings.

The authenticity of the period, and the customs and behaviour, make this a wonderful part period drama. Ursula is a gutsy, bold strong character, with a delightfully logical way of looking at her life and options.


AuthorAnna-Marie Crowhurst
PublisherAllen and Unwin
DistributorAllen and Unwin
ReleasedApril 2018