Braithwaite, Kate: The Road to Newgate

The Proposer is a fan of Historical Novels and had previously offered “Rob Roy” by Scott and “The Reditsky March” by Roth .We have also covered “The Red Badge of Courage”, “The Leopard”, “An Officer and a Spy” and “The Garden of Earthly Delights”. Arguably, Scott is the father of the Historical Novel and his influence is extensive .At best it gives the reader a taste for history and what comes through is convincing atmosphere, beliefs, attitudes and assumptions. However, purely as a novel it must satisfy as well. The Proposer knows the author and this adds interest for him and those who know her family, but it is also a good novel, accurate and where there are adjustments to dates to add to the drama, she is honest in declaring what she has changed. Original material has been used extensively and this adds to the shock of, for example, the performances of the two judges, Contemporary Trump and Brexit hysteria can be looked at through the experience of Titus Oates and his supporters and their success in largely conquering London. There is also the willingness of people in Britain to see great evil in Catholicism .

The Group enjoyed the book. We looked at one quote which displays fine tempo and use of language; “This is only a straw man, thank God .But I cannot drag my eyes from it all the same .He-it-wears tight black breeches and a many buttoned waistcoat. It sports a grubby neckerchief and a long dingy coat that has seen better days. They have given it woollen stockings -warn grubby and patched. Worst of all the wig and hat. Its wig hangs limply and is matted with some tacky grime .The hat looks as it has been kicked across the cobbles before being crammed upon its head. Probably because it has.”

The horror for Anne is palpable. However use of language was inconsistent and casual references in setting a scene were sometimes trite .The story is of the Popish Plot .There is no sub theme. In Barnaby Rudge , Dickens deals with the Gordon Riots a century later. There are lots of other layers .But this is not Dickens and it is less than half the length . The scenes were well constructed, in particular the visit to Mathew Medbourne in Newgate. Did the four voices work as a perspective on each chapter ? Husband and wife, fine, but could a different character not have given the drama greater perspective, e.g. the sister or one of the Oates team ?

In a Historical Novel ,should the main character be real or fictional ? It was suggested that the main character should be the creation of the Author. But who is the main character? Oates is arguably the object and Nat is the subject .