I always enjoy reading historical fiction and even more so if it's inspired by real life so when I heard about The Maids of Biddenden I instantly knew it was a book that I wanted to read and I'm so pleased that I did. This book is stunning!
The Maids of Biddenden were twins Mary and Eliza Chulkhurst who were born into a wealthy Kent family in 1100, but they were no ordinary twins as they were conjoined. Said to have been joined at the shoulder and the hip, back in these times their existence simultaneously horrified and amazed the common person and they were often thought to have been seen as a sign of the devil or an evil omen sent to expose some sin or even witchcraft in the local community. Needless to say that life wasn't easy for them right from the start but the girls soldier on and soon they find that they arer no longer just surviving, they are positively thriving!
I fell in love with Mary and Eliza right off the bat. Meeting them when they were just 6 years old and hidden away from sight being cared for by the local nuns, it was clear that despite their unfortunate condition, they both had their own individual personalities. They think that everyone is born like them and that one day they will go through a 'splitting' after which they will each be able to live their lives independently. The day that they realise that this procedure is never going to happen and that they are different was so exquisitely written it actually broke my heart to read it.
This is one of the best fiction based on fact novels I've ever read. GD Harper has managed to perfectly blend local legend and his imagination together in such a seamless fashion that doesn't feel in any way cumbersome to read. We have no way of knowing their real story but I'd love to think that their lives played out as told in this book. The sisters were an inspirational pair who showed courage, strength and tenacity. They overcame adversity and wanted to give back to their community and if the local folklore is to be believed, they founded a charity and to this day Biddenden cakes are given out and can also be purchased as souvenirs. The authors notes at the end of the book were particularly fascinating and they added to my overall enjoyment of the book, which then lead me to our favouorite search engine to seewhat else I could discover.
If historical fiction is your thing - actually no, forget that, not just historcial fictions fans - I think The Maids of Biddenden has a universal appeal for anyone who appreciates a great book and loves to lose themself in a fantastic story!
About the author
|Photo courtesy of GD Harper|
I now live in East Sussex, not far from Biddenden in Kent, which is the setting for my latest novel, The Maids of Biddenden, set in the 12th century. My next novel is also historical fiction, set in Kent in the 16th century.
I became a full-time author in 2016. My writing was placed third in the Lightship Prize for first-time authors and has won a 2016 Wishing Shelf Award Red Ribbon, been shortlisted for the 2021 Impress Prize, longlisted for the 2017 UK Novel Writing Competition, the Wishing Shelf 2018 awards, the 2020 Page Turner Writer Award, the 2021 Flash 500 Award, the 2021 Impress Prize and the 2021 Exeter Novel Prize.
You can find out more about GD Harper, his books and connect with his using the links below:
With kind thanks to author GD Harper for my review copy.