Thursday, October 3, 2019

Review: The Illumination of Ursula Flight by Anna-Marie Crowhurst

The Illumination of Ursula Flight
The Illumination of Ursula Flight by Anna-Marie Crowhurst
Allen & Unwin
Publication Date: May 3rd, 2018
Hardcover. 416 pages

About The Illumination of Ursula Flight:

"Born on the night of an ill-auguring comet just before Charles II's Restoration, Ursula Flight has a difficult future written in the stars. 

Against the custom of the age she begins an education with her father, who fosters in her a love of reading, writing and astrology. 

Following a surprise meeting with an actress, Ursula yearns for the theatre and thus begins her quest to become a playwright despite scoundrels, bounders, bad luck and heartbreak."

The Illumination of Ursula Flight is easily one of the most delightful and charming books I've read all year. It's engaging, unique, distinct in its voice, a little bawdy, and incredibly meaningful. This physical book is also unbelievably gorgeous and whoever designed this beauty deserves a raise.

This story follows Ursula Flight, a passionate young girl with a love of writing and theatre, as she moves through the tumultuous events of her life. Ursula is one of the most captivating and vibrant characters that I've had the pleasure of reading in some time. She is constantly exercising her creativity through her writing and inner dialogue, both of which I loved exploring, and as much as she is a mostly kind and interesting girl, she is full of flaws as well and makes plenty of mistakes that grounds her in reality in the most fulfilling way. She is extraordinarily willful about her desires and actions, but also has the common sense to learn from her mistakes and to make the most of any situation she is in, no matter how dreadful it may be. She's always full of hope, and I think that's one of her most endearing qualities.

The historical backdrop of the seventeenth century was equally vibrant and intriguing to explore. The time period was obvious in the mannerisms of the characters and the realities of what life was like in those times--especially for women--but I loved how Crowhurst still managed to make this time period feel so alive and exciting. It honestly made me want to learn more about the time period and King Charles and more about the theatre during that time period.

Within this delightful background and historical period are a myriad of equally colorful characters that constantly had me laughing, cringing, and everything in between. Every person, no matter how minor their role may be, has something distinct about their personality that brings them to life and adds a certain level of charm to the story that I couldn't help but love. It is also largely Ursula's narrative that makes everything so enjoyable due to of her sharp mind and penchant for making jokes or comments about different characters and events that I loved.

Even though this book is full of delights as I've been describing, it still manages to handle some extremely serious topics, albeit in lighter ways that make these topics somewhat easier to handle. I can't really go into details about these, unfortunately, because to do so would give way to spoilers, but suffice to say that the plight of women in this period is explored to the fullest extent in a way that makes you laugh slightly and nod along in commiseration, but also makes you sit back and consider these topics yourself and how things have or haven't changed over time. I find Ursula entirely inspirational and an incredible role model in relation to the idea that a woman can do anything, no matter what circumstance she may currently be in.

I loved Crowhurst's writing style, which embodied an appropriate seventeenth century style without being too stuffy and was instead vibrant and authentic. There are also excerpts from Ursula's various writings (plays, journals entries, etc.) littered throughout that provided some wonderful breaks in the narrative and allowed for some wonderful insight into Ursula's thoughts and writing abilities. These parts were some of my favorite!

Overall, it's an easy five stars from me. I cannot wait to see what Crowhurst writes next, though I'm not sure anything could ever take the place I have in my heart for this charming book.

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