Synopses & Reviews
A Library Journal Top Ten Best Books of 2011
An epic novel about love and war, set in Regency England and Spain during the Peninsular War (1812-15), by the acclaimed historian and bestselling author of Aristocrats
Tides of War opens in England with the recently married, charmingly unconventional Harriet preparing to say goodbye to her husband, James, as he leaves to join the Duke of Wellington's troops in Spain.
Harriet and James's interwoven stories of love and betrayal propel this sweeping and dramatic novel as it moves between Regency London on the cusp of modernity—a city in love with science, the machine, money—and the shocking violence of war in Spain. With dazzling skill Stella Tillyard explores not only the effects of war on the men at the front but also the freedoms it offers the women left behind. As Harriet befriends the older and protective Kitty, Lady Wellington, her life begins to change in unexpected ways. Meanwhile, James is seduced by the violence of battle, and then by love in Seville.
As the novel moves between war and peace, Spain and London, its large cast of characters includes the serial adulterer and war hero the Duke of Wellington, and the émigrés Nathan Rothschild and Frederic Winsor who will usher in the future, creating a world brightly lit by gaslight where credit and financial speculation rule. Whether describing the daily lives and desires of strong female characters or the horror of battle, Tides of War is set to be the fiction debut of the year.
"In her first novel, historian Tillyard (Aristocrats) intertwines fictional newlyweds Harriet and James Raven with the historical duke and duchess of Wellington, along with other real and imaginary characters, to give a broad perspective on English society of the early 19th century. Captain Raven sets off to help Wellington drive elder Bonaparte Joseph from Spain, while his plucky bride heads for London in pursuit of science. Tillyard adds observations from Spanish artist Francisco Goya, investor/banker Nathan Rothschild, soldiers and scientists, and wives, widows, and mistresses to reveal the devastation of the Peninsula War and the evolution of London into a modern city where resourceful women can attain unprecedented freedom. Harriet explores science with Fredric Winsor, while the duchess invests shrewdly so that financial fortunes change with the fortunes of war. A better storyteller than inventor, Tillyard is at her best with historical figures and when depicting the era; readers share Harriet's discovery of the waltz, Jane Austen, and ice cream, and witness cutting-edge battlefield surgeries under real-life Surgeon Gen. James McGrigor. Tillyard needs only characters as complex as her historical figures, and relationships as intriguing, to rank among the best of the historical fiction scribes re-imagining women of the past." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"In short, war is as transformative for those who remain at home as for those who fight it, and historian Tillyard, making her fiction debut, does a superb job of portraying those transformations with deft, economical prose and metaphors that are as instructive as they are descriptive. This sophisticated, unusual portrait of Regency society will appeal to all readers of historical fiction, especially admirers of Bernard Cornwell."—Library Journal, Starred Review
"Tillyard is at her best with historical figures and when depicting the era; readers share Harriet's discovery of the waltz, Jane Austen, and ice cream, and witness cutting-edge battlefield surgeries under real-life Surgeon Gen. James McGrigor."—Publishers Weekly
"Dazzling—I love this book. It's beautifully written, the characters are deeply involving and the historical settings so right—in short, Tides of War is a triumph."—Simon Schama
"Stella Tillyard is famous for the bravura of her writing, so it should come as no surprise that her fifth book is not a biography but a historical novel… The result suggests that history's loss will be fiction's gain; Tides of War is one of the most assured literary debuts in years… Stella Tillyard has written a modern novel that is the perfect answer to anyone who believes that the past is out of date."—Amanda Foreman, Financial Times
"A remarkably instructive novel. Tillyard embellishes a plot too intricate for summary with a plethora of detail. Readers…will find much to fascinate them... Tillyard is a fluent and attractive chronicler of historical detail and some of her imaginative liberties are ingenious… An entertaining fictional debut."—The Telegraph (UK)
"Hugely enjoyable… In its intelligent, classy, entertaining way, the book is reminiscent of that other fine novelist of the Napoleonic wars, Patrick O'Brian."—Angus Clarke, The Times (UK)
"Love, betrayal, war and peace charge this powerful debut."—Fanny Blake, Woman and Home (UK)
"This novel is packed with marvelous period detail… Tillyard writes in fluid, largely understated prose, and her descriptions are wonderful."—Lucy Atkins, The Sunday Times (UK)
"Seldom, since reading Jane Austen, have I wanted to slip between the pages of a book and become one of its characters. But in Tides of War, Stella Tillyards first novel, the clever, messy heroine who prefers chemistry to needlework filled me with roughly the same longing I felt when reading Emma as a teenager…. With Tides of War, she makes fiction as real as history and considerably more compelling."—Lucy Kellaway, Financial Times
"Dazzling---I love this book. Its beautifully written, the characters are deeply involving, and the historical setting so right---in short, Tides of War is a triumph."---Simon Schama"A page-turner…A welcome and entertaining contribution to the genre…The great appeal of her book is that history here is like quicksilver, assuming new shapes that are never quite the ones you imagined."---Charles McGrath, The New York Times "The descriptions of the era, from the battlegrounds of the Peninsular War to the lab that captivates Harriet back in England, are enchanting."---USA Today"Tillyard is ambitious and precise in her knowledge of historical detail….She sees those tendrils of the war that have reached into our time."---Jane Smiley, The Washington Post "Hugely enjoyable…Intelligent, classy, entertaining."---The Times (London)
An epic novel about love and war, set in Regency England and Spain during the Peninsular War
Tides of War opens in England with the recently married, charmingly unconventional Harriet preparing to say good-bye to her husband, James, as he leaves to join the Duke of Wellington's troops in Spain. Harriets and Jamess interwoven stories of love and betrayal propel this sweeping and dramatic novel as it moves between Regency London on the cusp of modernity---a city in love with science, the machine, and money---and the shocking violence of the war in Spain. With dazzling skill, Stella Tillyard explores not only the effects of war on the men at the front but also the freedoms it offers the women left behind. A powerful rendering of the Napoleonic era and a brilliant examination of battles yet to come, Tides of War is "one of the most assured literary debuts in years…the perfect answer to anyone who believes that the past is out of date" (Amanda Foreman, Financial Times).
About the Author
Stella Tillyard has been described by Simon Schama as "dazzling . . . a phenomenally gifted writer." Her books include Aristocrats: Caroline, Emily, Louisa and Sarah Lennox, 1740-1832; Citizen Lord: Edward Fitzgerald, 1763-1798; and most recently A Royal Affair: George III and his Troublesome Siblings. She has lived in the United States and Italy and now lives in London.