Book Review: Alice in Love and War by Ann Turnbull

24 Mar

Alice Newcombe is unhappy at her uncle’s farm. When soldiers from the royalist army seek food and shelter there, she is infatuated with Robin, who gives her kisses and is kind to her. As their relationship quickly develops, Alice knows the path she wants to take: she’ll follow the army train so she can be near him at all times, and soon they will be married.

But war does not always go as planned, for anyone. Alice is thrust into the tumult of the English Civil War at the tender age of sixteen, surrounded by strangers, homeless, with no wealth but the knowledge in her father’s apothecary book to support her. Her journey leads her to the arms of good people and bad, and just when all seems to go well, it goes horribly, horribly wrong.

The back of this book makes it sound like a typical  romance–please do not go into it thinking it is, or you will probably reach page 35, chuck the book across the room, and wonder how anything could be even worse than Twilight.

By page 35, Alice meets Robin for the first time, sneaks out of the house to smooch him a bit, he takes her virginity, and she’s convinced she’s completely and totally in love and that they’ll get married soon and live happily ever after.

At this point, I was groaning. I had never encountered a character so unbelievably stupid. There was no character development (save for Alice’s stupidity) and I thought for sure that this was how it was going to continue: lalala, love love love, then maybe Robin gets killed in the war and she has to grow up a bit. The end.

But then the book shaped into something so much more. Perhaps I should have seen it then–because really, when a character is so mind-numbingly dumb, where is there to go but up? And Alice reaches for the moon and lands among the stars. While she’s still hoping on Robin for a good half of the book, the reader begins to see that the situation is hopeless–Robin isn’t all he seems, and didn’t want love at all. This isn’t a happily ever after. Alice goes through difficulties which make her grow up sooner rather than later. She is employed in a good house making herbal teas and poultices for the family. She witnesses the horrors of war first hand and has a great responsibility thrust upon her shoulders. She sees more of the world, and craves to see even more–to learn and grow and become useful.

Alice by the end of the book is nothing like the Alice in the first 35 pages. She is more careful, likable, clever, and bold–at least as much as she can be as a woman in the 1640s.

And the plot, while still a romance, focuses much more on Alice’s growth as a character. There is so much symbolism chucked in here I started writing an essay in my head before remembering I’d already graduated. It’s a coming-of-age story and a becoming-a-woman story. While set in a historical period, I think there is much to be gained by teenage girls of today reading this book. It’s an empowering story of faithfulness and friendship, and faithfulness to yourself.

I was also impressed with the historical details, big and small, that make it clear this is one well-researched book. The setting and time period jump from the pages and suck you in until you’ve read every last word.


2 Responses to “Book Review: Alice in Love and War by Ann Turnbull”


  1. Book Review: No Shame, No Fear by Ann Turnbull | More Than One Page - May 15, 2013

    […] fantastic historical read by Ann Turnbull. I previously readĀ Alice, in Love and War, my review for which you can read here. I liked this book even better because both of the main characters, while idealistic, were […]

  2. 2013: A Year of Reading in Review | More Than One Page - December 26, 2013

    […] Alice in Love and War by Ann Turnbull […]

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