Susan Midalia's Review
The author of the bestselling novel The Good Wife of Bath, Karen Brooks has written another gem of the historical imagination. Set in late nineteenth-century London, the novel is partly based on the life and opinions of the writer Aphra Ben, most well-known as a controversial playwright. The titular heroine, Tribulation Johnson (thus named by her punitive father) is a wholly fictional creation: a defiant young woman who, taken under Aphra Ben’s wing, becomes involved with the theatre and, unwittingly, in a series of political conspiracies and secret plots. It’s a thoroughly entertaining as well as a historically informative read about the Restoration, as well as women who refuse to be submissive and silent.
From the author of The Good Wife of Bath comes this brilliant recreation of the vibrant, optimistic but politically treacherous world of London's Restoration theatre, where we are introduced to the remarkable playwright Aphra Behn, now a feminist icon but then an anomaly, who gravitated to the stage - a place where artifice and disguise are second nature and accommodates those who do not fit in.
'Karen Brooks demonstrates her considerable talent for capturing the historical moment in this richly told, immersive read that will acquaint readers with a woman whose name we should all know. ' Pip Williams, author of The Bookbinder of Jericho
It's 1679 and into the tumult, politics and colour of Restoration London and its lively theatre scene comes the fierce and opinionated Tribulation Johnson. Cast out from her family as ungodly and unworthy, Tribulation is determined to forge her own remarkable path.
Arriving in London, Tribulation is astonished to discover that the widowed cousin she's been sent to live with is none other than the most infamous woman in London: the former spy and traitor's mistress, the playwright and polemical poetess, Aphra Behn. Tribulation cannot believe her good fortune as she is thrust into city life and the heady, mercurial milieu of the theatre. Under Aphra's guidance, Tribulation is encouraged to write, think and speak for herself. But women aren't supposed to have a voice, or ideas, let alone wield a pen and write for a living, and there are harsh consequences for those who don't obey society's rules.
Together, Aphra and Tribulation must not only face vilification and mockery but terrible danger as plots to overturn the monarchy gather pace. When someone from Aphra's complicated past reappears, the women's loyalties - to King, country, and ultimately each other - are bitterly tested. Can their relationship survive the burning fires of religious hatred, suspicion and deceit? When everyone plays a part, and all the world's a stage, who you trust?
Praise for Karen Brooks
'So damn readable and fun ... This is the story of a woman fighting for her rights; it breaches the walls of history.' The Australian
''All women together ought to let flowers fall upon the tomb of Aphra Behn'. Karen Brooks has done better. She has revived Aphra and her words.' The Newtown Review of Books