by Alexandra Tidswell
Lewisville is a story that spans three countries and fifty-six years. Pretty impressive considering that the novel fitted comfortably within my hands as I devoured it from cover to cover.
It begins in 1815 when a young, dirt-poor English girl, Martha Grimm, despite desperately wanting to, is told she will never be allowed to learn to read and write and must stay and look after her mother as all eldest daughters are expected to do. But Martha Grimm is ambitious, and despite this dismal prospect, sets out to change her fortune in the world, no matter what the cost might be to herself and those around her.
We follow her journey, from rags to potential riches, that takes her and daughter Mary Ann from motherland England to a fledgling 1840s Wellington, New Zealand.
As a reader of many genres, I’ve never been a fan of historical fiction – often weighty tomes of historical fact ladled over fictitious characters and mixed in with the repetitive nitty-gritty of their everyday lives. Lewisville however, is a wonderful, can’t-put-it-down page-turning read.
The story is based on a family’s hidden truth revealed, explored and embellished by a descendant, the author herself. I can tell that this is a debut novel. Why? Because you can feel that a whole life has been invested into this work. The story is imbued with a passionate desire to bring an obsession to light, a need to free the characters in one’s head out into the world for all to see.
What would you do if you discovered that one of your ancestors had hidden a momentous truth by laying a shroud of mystery over it, a mystery that would have a false rumour-effect for the generations to come? This novel is what Alexandra Tidswell did with that discovery.
Lewisville is a fantastic read, whether you’re a Kiwi looking at how it was in early Wellington settlement, an Australian observing the early convict-colony to goldrush settlement days, or English knowing what life used to be like within and without service in the 1800s. What would you do to better your lot in life? Read Lewisville and discover how Martha Grimm bettered hers.
Author: Alexandra Tidswell
Publisher: Mākaro Press
Available: Paper only