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Paperback / ISBN-13: 9780349144979

Price: £9.99

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‘Utterly absorbing, cleverly constructed and beautifully written’ The Times

‘Moving and exhilarating’ Spectator

‘Evokes the messiness and fragility of everyday life in the nineteenth century’ Daily Mail

Almost two hundred years ago, Abraham, an illiterate urchin, scavenges on a Suffolk beach and dreams of running away to sea … Naomi, a seventeen-year-old seamstress, imagines a new life in the big city … George, a private soldier of the 50th Regiment of Food, marries his Irish bride, Annie, in the cathedral in Manchester and together they face married life under arms. Now these people exist only in the bare bones of registers and census lists but they were once real enough.

Simon Mawer puts flesh on our ancestors’ bones to bring them to life and give them voice. There is birth and death; there is love, both open and legal but also hidden and illicit. Yet the thread that connects these disparate figures is something that they cannot have known – the unbreakable bond of family.

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Moving and exhilarating
Told with brio, the gutsy narrative evokes the messiness and fragility of everyday life in the nineteenth century... I was moved by Mawer's defense of storytelling as a vital tool of historical recovery
Daily Mail
Utterly absorbing... so cleverly constructed and beautifully written
The Times
Gripping... an intriguing blend of archival research and fictionalised accounts of the life histories of his own forebears... I won't forget these women whose DNA he is so proud of inheriting, or the voices he conjures for them... They were anything but ordinary
Financial Times
An astonishing blend of historical fiction and imaginative non-fiction, Ancestry is a book that will stay with me forever... A beautiful, haunting and extremely moving testament to what men and women without means or agency must endure to keep their families together and what we owe - and can learn from them - in turn
Natalie Jenner
Mawer writes movingly about the privations of military life and the hardships endured by women in the Victorian era... His prose is measured and elegant
Sunday Times