As soon as I saw this book on social media I was intrigued. Like many people, I’ve always been interested in the relationship between twins – blame Sweet Valley High – but co-joined twins take this unique connection to a different level. My curiosity piqued when I discovered this was also based on a true story.
Scroll down to see my thoughts on this unusual book.
Book Review: The Maids of Biddenden Hall by GD Harper
Title: The Maids of Biddenden Hall
Author: GD Harper
Publisher: Ginger Cat
Genre: Historical fiction
Release Date: 16th June 2022
‘There is no I, there is no you. There is only us.’
Joined at the hip, Eliza and Mary Chulkhurst overcome fear and hostility to grow into gifted and much-loved women – one a talented musician and song-writer, the other a caring healer and grower of medicinal plants.
Entangled in the struggles for power and influence of the great Kent nobles of the time, they achieve much in their lifetimes and leave behind a legacy that survives to this day. This is the heart-warming inspirational story of two remarkable women leading one joint life, challenging adversity to become the best they can be.
From the start, I was thrown into the life and thoughts of the time as I was introduced to the girls as young children. As a disabled person, I found the beginning chapters hard to read, as anything unusual was classed as evil and life was expendable. Throughout the novel, it highlighted the hate, suspicion and bigotry that plagued the girls but also showed love, acceptance and their ability to flourish in their community and beyond.
As someone who has little knowledge of the era, the politics and social norms outside their farm was as mind-boggling to me as them at the beginning, but they used their intelligence and determination to make their mark as something more than a curious exhibit. It was refreshing to read. They were distinct individuals with Eliza being an accomplished musician and Mary, a healer. The detailed descriptions of the daily life made it easy to slip into their world especially Mary’s physica gardens. I knew nothing about them but could see Mary’s ambition reflected in community gardening projects nowadays.
This is a well written, unforgettable and uplifting story of two formidable women whose legacy lives on.
Would I recommend?
Yes, the twin’s lives drew me into the 12th century to discover a political and social landscape I knew nothing about. This fascinating novel followed two unique women as they made a place in a world beyond anyone’s expectations against a backdrop of stigma and patriarchy. Their story is as relevant now as it was then. It’s an ideal read for fans of historical fiction and stories based on little known personalities from the past.
GD Harper became a full-time author in 2016, publishing three novels under the pen name GD Harper. I have been both a Wishing Shelf Book Award finalist and Red Ribbon winner, been shortlisted for the Lightship Prize, longlisted for the UK Novel Writing Award and longlisted for the Page Turner Writer Award. The Maids of Biddenden was a finalist in this year’s Page Turner Book Award for unpublished manuscripts, longlisted for the Exeter Novel Prize and the Flash 500 Novel Award, and shortlisted for the Impress Prize.
Thank you Random Thing Tours for inviting me to this tour and providing an advanced copy for me to review and give my honest and unbiased opinion.