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Birdcage Walk Audiobook

Birdcage Walk

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Publisher's Summary

It is 1792 and Europe is seized by political turmoil and violence. Lizzie Fawkes has grown up in radical circles where each step of the French Revolution is followed with eager idealism. But she has recently married John Diner Tredevant, a property developer who is heavily invested in Bristol's housing boom, and he has everything to lose from social upheaval and the prospect of war. Soon his plans for a magnificent terrace built above the 200-foot drop of the gorge come under threat. Diner believes that Lizzie's independent, questioning spirit must be coerced and subdued. She belongs to him: law and custom confirm it, and she must live as he wants. In a tense drama of public and private violence, resistance and terror, Diner's passion for Lizzie darkens until she finds herself dangerously alone.

©2017 Helen Dunmore (P)2017 Bolinda Publishing Pty Ltd

What the Critics Say

"Hers are expert hands at turning history into gripping fiction." (The Times)

"Helen Dunmore...is a poet as well as a novelist, who is celebrated for her delicate language and acute observations." (Sunday Times)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.3 (81 )
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4.2 (76 )
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4.3 (78 )
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Performance
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  •  
    Rachel Redford 06/04/2017
    Rachel Redford 06/04/2017 Member Since 2015

    Writer and audiobook reviewer.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "'Her words remain our inheritance'"

    These are the words on a gravestone in Birdcage Walk, the hauntingly beautiful partially ruined cemetery in Bristol which triggers the story of the fictional Lizzie Fawkes that follows.

    This brilliant historical novel opens in 1789 with an un-named man burying a body in woodland on the wild side of the Avon Gorge in Clifton, Bristol - a scene of both menace and beauty - and it is not until the very end of the book that we have the last piece of the jig-saw which makes full sense of it. Lizzie Fawkes, the daughter of the woman in the Birdcage Walk cemetery, has married the building speculator John Diner Tredevant, a dynamic visionary with great plans for building prestigious houses above the Avon gorge. Lizzie's adored mother Julia is a sort of Mary Wollstonecraft radical author married to her second husband Augustus, but her life changes when she becomes pregnant twenty years after giving birth to Lizzie. The birth scene is so detailed and visual that it makes for difficult listening - enough to say that Lizzie is left utterly bereft.

    The French Revolution is the vividly created historical background with accounts of the bliss-to-be-alive days longed for by Lizzie's mother and friends developing as time passes into the fearful Terror and the guillotine. The news from the unfolding catastrophe in France parallels Lizzie's life falling apart as she looks after her newborn baby brother, and comes to fear (with good reason) her increasingly controlling and menacing husband who is threatened with bankruptcy as his fabulous plans for building elegant houses on borrowed money disintegrate.

    To give more of the story would spoil the tense plot and the final denouement, but there are some outstandingly intense dramatic scenes, such as Julia's confinement and a desperate boat crossing of the turbulent Avon river. But it's not just these scenes: it is the mass of unobtrusive contemporary detail which makes this thoroughly convincing and tactile historical reality, and also the delicacy of the language. (Helen Dunmore is also a poet and her ability to choose words which sing is evident throughout.)

    The author's afterword which ends the recording is extremely moving and gives an extra dimension to the words on the gravestone. Emma Fenney makes a good job of presenting this complex work.

    It is one to look out for and treasure. I loved it.

    6 of 7 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Marilyn 22/03/2017
    Marilyn 22/03/2017 Member Since 2014
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    "Wonderful"

    A very detailed gripping story, that made the seventeen hundreds come vividly to life. I also loved Helen's journey finding and creating the characters and times.

    6 of 7 people found this review helpful
  •  
    DartmoorDiva Dartmoor 04/07/2017
    DartmoorDiva Dartmoor 04/07/2017

    Dartmoor Scribbler

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Great novel spoiled by narrator"

    I enjoyed Helen Dunmore's last novel very much. As with all her work, it's well crafted and a great storyline. However, I found the narrator irritating. She has a way of gabbling her words, and then pausing... so you are dragged along in a stop start manner. She also has the modern pronunciation of saying 'diddunt' (for didn't) as a child would pronounce the word. Yes I'm being picky, but it spoiled it for me, I should have bought the paperback.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Patricia White Kendal 30/07/2017
    Patricia White Kendal 30/07/2017 Listener Since 2007
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    "No clear storyline."

    What was this book about - the French Revolution, the history of Clifton, or Lizzie's mother, whose life you are led to believe will be the focus of the story? It isn't. What was the reason for the over-long prologue about the man walking his dog if we never return to him and to contemporary relevance of the lost writer's life? What was the reason for the over-long story about Lizzie's relationship with her husband if he simply turns round and goes away after tortuous (for the listener) to-ing and fro-ing ? Lizzie's narration was also irritatingly repetitive.
    I have always respected Helen Dunmore as a writer until now. I am aware of her recent sad passing, of which this review is irrespective.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    MRS AUDREY MAWBY 08/07/2017
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    "At what price, liberty?"

    This cameo portrait of an under-privileged young British bride of the eighteenth century whose fortunes rise and fall with the political and economic effects of the French Revolution Is suffused with an unsolved mystery involving her husband. All is gradually discovered with increasing suspense keeping the listener entranced to the last word.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Dr P J Gane 26/06/2017
    Dr P J Gane 26/06/2017 Member Since 2016
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    "Engrossing but rushed delivery "

    I enjoyed it after struggling with the very rapid (and grating) start. Thankfully it slowed a little which allowed me to a absorb and enjoy the great writing.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Loraine 24/06/2017
    Loraine 24/06/2017 Member Since 2014
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    "Captivating"

    Just couldn't put this book down, clever and interesting plot with real history. It was beautifully read and I could not have enjoyed it more. Thank you.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ms Cherry P Heinrich 22/06/2017
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Compelling glimpse of a turbulent time"

    I began listening to this story not long after the sad news of the author's death. This I think did play a part in my listening experience and reflection on the shortness and unpredictability of life. Another reading of this novel might be as a thriller, at times it was unputdownable or unturnoffable would be more exact. Another reading is a reimagining of an historical time where changes impacted in different ways on people's lives both here and in France. In this reading I would compare Helen Dunmore to Hillary Mantel as having the ability to get inside the skin of her characters and help us understand that time better, to feel it. Finally Helen Dunmore is a poet and sometimes her choice of phrase or image catches the breathe. I loved this book. The narrator did an excellent job because I wasn't aware of her, only the words.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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