Sidmouth author Laura Holland on a new book

08h00 June 4, 2022

Carl East of Winstone’s Independent Books writes for the Herald.

Carl East of Winstone’s Independent Bookstore
– Credit: Carl East

Changing trends in society are always reflected in the books published and purchased.

The #MeToo movement and the trans rights debate have influenced fiction writers as well as journalists and commentators

sister song by Sidmouth’s Lucy Holland is part of a wave of exciting new books that look again at history and myth, telling them with a modern eye, bringing women’s lives to the fore where traditionally female voices have been absent or redacted.

When the Romans left ancient Britain, the territory, including Devon, was divided by opposing tribes and invaders such as the Angles and Saxons.

Written records have effectively ceased and we have come to know about the intrigues of the time mainly through myths and ballads.

The folk song ‘The Twa sisters‘ is one such tale and is the basis of the Dark Ages Sistersong set.

It was also led by the discovery of Stone Age and post-Roman remains found at High Peak in Sidmouth.

I caught up with Lucy to ask her a few questions about her book:

How did you first hear about the local archaeological remains that inspired you?

While researching the British Roman period in Devon, I came across the archaeological report from a local website. To my surprise, it was Peak Hill, so I went there immediately to have a look.

Magic is one of your previous books, would you describe Sistersong as a fantasy novel?

I would call it historical fantasy. Although the Twa Sisters the ballad inspired him, sister song is strongly shaped by the seismic economic and cultural events of sixth-century Britain.

The Twa sisters can be described as a killer ballad, have you undertaken to correct the misogyny inherent in this type of narrative?

The male lens tends to portray women as stereotypes – and this ballad is no different. I wanted to find the real people behind it and give them a chance to tell their story directly.

Which female authors have inspired you to write?

Ursula K. Le Guin and Patricia A. McKillip were my biggest inspirations. Both pushed the boundaries of their time to produce feminist masterpieces that I hope will be read for centuries to come.

sister song is now available in paperback, with signed copies available at the store.

Madeleine Miller arguably set the pattern for revisionist feminist narratives with The Song of Achilles and then Circe.

These were also at the forefront of books shared by influencers on the social media app TikTok, and caused a stir among young readers.

Pat Barker, the Booker Prize-winning author of the WW1 Regeneration Trilogy, turned to depicting women’s experience of war.

To tell about The Iliad in The Silence of Girls through the narration the concubine of the hero Achille. In her new novel, the story continues after the fall of the great city as the Greeks return home with their captives, The Women of Troy.

Jennifer Saint bestselling author Ariadne follows with it, Elektra focusing on the origins of the Trojan War and the curse on the House of Atreus.

Elektra is Helen of Troy’s niece and is horrified by the conflict within her family. Can she escape the ancestral curse, or is her fate and that of her sisters still tied to the fickle nature of men and gods?

Finally, and inspired by true events in a time of superstition and religious conflict, Kiran Millwood’s novel Hargreaves The dancing tree is located medieval Strasbourg.

In the middle of a scorching summer, a lonely woman starts dancing in the town square. She continues for days without a break or rest, and is soon joined by hundreds more.

The state of emergency is declared, is it the work of the Devil, madness or civil disobedience? How to stop this contestation of authority?

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