I’m delighted to be kicking off the blogtour for The Maiden by Kate Foster on publication day. This historical novel is set right here in Edinburgh during the 17th century and I think we all know how much I enjoy books like that! I’m going to the book launch tonight so I’ll add some photos from that later. Not only do I have my review for you today, I have #TenThings which Kate Foster would like to share with her readers.
About the book
Inspired by a real-life case and winner of the Bloody Scotland Pitch Perfect Award, Kate Foster’s The Maiden is a remarkable story with a feminist revisionist twist, giving a voice to women otherwise silenced by history.
“In the end, it did not matter what I said at my trial. No one believed me.”
Edinburgh, October 1679. Lady Christian is arrested and charged with the murder of her lover, James Forrester. News of her imprisonment and subsequent trial is splashed across the broadsides, with headlines that leave little room for doubt: Adulteress. Whore. Murderess.
Only a year before, Lady Christian was newly married, leading a life of privilege and respectability. So, what led her to risk everything for an affair? And does that make her guilty of murder? She wasn’t the only woman in Forrester’s life, and certainly not the only one who might have had cause to wish him dead . . .
I loved, loved, LOVED this book! I was gripped by the story of Lady Christian from start to finish. Lady Christian was a real historical figure and stories about her are well known, especially in the Corstorphine area of Edinburgh. She is said to haunt the area where the killing of her lover took place and is known as The White Lady. There’s even a local pub named after her! The book takes place in 17th century Edinburgh. It’s an Edinburgh with familiar places but which is also very different from today. It’s a dank and dirty Edinburgh where foul mists rise from the Nor’ Loch and danger lurks. Places which are now well-to-do neighbourhoods, such as Corstorphine and Roseburn, are villages outside the bounds of the town.
This is the imagined life of Lady Christian Nimmo, as nobody really knows what drove her to do what she did. The author paints a vivid picture of the constrained life for gentle-women of the time. To be married was to be secure but for Lady Christian, her marriage was unsatisfactory and she was trapped. Is this why she began a shocking affair with her uncle, Sir James Forrester? With much of the story told from her point of view, we see how unhappy she was and how she was perhaps beguiled by her uncle’s smooth words and empty promises.
The author presents two other women who are integral to the story and through them we see a very different side of life for women of that era, women from different social backgrounds to Lady Christian. Violet is a prostitute who catches Sir James’ eye and Oriana is his maid. They live a precarious life with few options or opportunities and in different ways are at the mercy of men. The author imagines what their lives might have been like, how they may have been connected to Lady Christian and how they may have been involved in her downfall.
The influence of the Church is clear too and the hypocrisy at its heart. The double standards of how men and women were treated is apparent with rich people, particularly men, able to do more or less what they wanted with little consequence. Outwardly they may have seemed pious but it was a different story under the surface.
When I first began to read this book, I assumed that ‘The Maiden’ of the title referred to the main character and that could indeed be the case. However, it has the double meaning of referring to the guillotine which was used to execute criminals at this time. When I discovered the actual ‘maiden’, which is so much the looming focus of the book, is in the National Museum of Scotland, I had to go to see it. It was actually quite sobering to stand there knowing that this was the very guillotine which features in the book and which saw the end of many criminals. It really brought home Edinburgh’s dark and gruesome past which saw hangings and beheadings, with, rather unbelievably to me, crowds of people looking on as people were executed.
I thought The Maiden was a brilliant piece of historical fiction. I found it to be a gripping and exciting read which had me thoroughly immersed in the story when I was reading it and thinking about the characters when I was not. Through Christian, Violet and Oriana the author has given voice to women of the era and they are not just footnotes in history. The Maiden is a book which taught me about a part of Edinburgh’s dark past I wasn’t familiar with and I loved it.
#TenThings about Kate Foster
- I’m from Corstorphine, near Edinburgh, the main location where The Maiden is set.
I was brought up very near the site of the murder of Lord James Forrester, where Christian Nimmo is said to haunt the spot. I have never seen her ghost but I used to be scared of her when I was a child. After leaving Corstorphine aged 18, I came back 30 years later and it’s where I live now.
- I am a divorced mum of two teenagers.
They keep me on my toes and very grounded about being a debut author. My son has told everyone about The Maiden but my daughter took one look at it and handed it straight back to me. I think she’s a bit young!
- I’ve been a journalist for 25 years.
I have written for lots of different newspapers but I have been the Health Editor for the Scottish Daily Mail since 2016. I love writing health news stories because they matter to everyone. I cover stories on the NHS, the covid pandemic, and public health issues.
- I write anywhere.
I have written on planes, trains, sofas, you name it. I don’t need much. It comes from being a journalist and having to whip up a story in any location.
- I’m a 48-year-old debut novelist!
I have written creatively on and off since I was a child. But I wasn’t ready to tackle a full novel until I was in my mid-forties. I think you need a bit of life experience, and to have experienced a few setbacks, to give your characters their humanity. It’s never too late to sit down and start your first story!
- I love spending holidays with my extended family.
We always do the Edinburgh Fringe or go to Devon where my Dad’s from. My best memories are of family get togethers with my Dad, my brother and sister-in-law and all the kids.
- I can’t write without coffee.
I need decent coffee to keep me going although I drink decaffeinated so it’s probably psychological…
- My favourite part of the world is the French Alps.
I would go there in summer or winter, it’s beautiful whatever the season. I learned to ski when I was forty but I don’t really enjoy it. I love the environment though and I really longed for the Alps when we were in lockdown.
- I hardly have any spare time.
I work full time, I write novels, so between those obligations and my kids, there’s not much time to spare. I love spending time with my friends, going out for a nice Saturday lunch and a gossip, that’s very good fun.
- My reading recommendations are Burial Rites by Hannah Kent, which is a stunning novel with similar themes to The Maiden and anything by Stacey Halls.
Thanks so much to Chloe at Pan Macmillan for sending me a copy
of the book and having me as part of the blogtour.
The Maiden is out now in hardback, ebook and audiobook formats.
About the Author
Kate Foster has been a national newspaper journalist for over twenty years. Growing up in Edinburgh, she became fascinated by its history and often uses it as inspiration for her stories. The Maiden won the Bloody Scotland Pitch Perfect 2020 prize for new writers. She lives in Edinburgh with her two children.
4 thoughts on “The Maiden by Kate Foster | #publicationday #bookreview plus #TenThings about the author| @KateFosterMedia @panmacmillan | #TheMaiden #Edinburgh #HistoricalFiction”
Oh this sounds good. I think Dad might enjoy it to – another for the list! Great review, thanks Joanne
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Great review, thanks for sharing your thoughts
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Thank you. It’s one I really enjoyed.