Historical fiction

The Bedlam Stacks by Natasha Pulley

I chose this book for the gorgeous cover, but I stayed for the writing. It was hard to see where the story would go with the starting chapters, but I did not see the plotline coming. It is magical realism in a historical fiction setting. A reader has to be aware of these things before they start reading because if that is not something they like, it will not be easy to enjoy the book.
The dark and foreboding atmosphere begins with the lead protagonist trying to keep himself busy in his crumbling family home.
It is 1859, and Merrick Tremayne is taking some time off trying to recuperate from a bad injury to his foot. He is still in the employ of The East India Company, and the author addresses some of the less talked about underhanded practices they employed as a regular occurrence. He is coaxed into following a couple he has known for long to find quinine and smuggle it back to a location that the British could then use to cultivate it and reduce the monopoly held by countries in and around the Amazon.
Merrick is important because he has familial connections to a remote town that once harboured his grandfather and later his father.
Merrick is a conflicted person. Merrick is influenced by what he feels is his duty to his country and his employers and, on the other, by his humanity and the affinity he feels to the people he interacts with. He is overly curious and respectful, but the combination of the two has him digging into the secrets of the place he has come to rob (of a sort).
The atmosphere was perfect, the location and time period entirely new for me. The characters introduced to us, both the main and background, were intriguing, to say the least. Not all of them were completely likeable, and I was not sure if I was supposed to read into a romantic angle to the narrative, but even without that, it was a very different read to the many historical fictions I have had the opportunity to pick up.
I would recommend the author and this book to readers who find the blurb or even this review remotely interesting.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s