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Birdcage Walk by Helen Dunmore

Birdcage Walk

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March 2017 Book of the Month.

A breathtaking, evocative, and stormy tale set in the early 1790’s, just as the fallout from the French Revolution was spilling over into life in Britain. Lizzie Fawkes, daughter of a radical thinker and writer, has settled in Bristol and married a property developer, a man who has the vision to see a parade of buildings in the air, yet fights inner demons. Can Lizzie find her voice as an uncertain life rattles the caged bars of her husband’s will? Helen Dunmore creates a dark and intimate tale within a momentous time, a tense foreboding hovers and slowly sinks over the story, a feeling of inevitability steals across the pages. The writing, through the beautifully detailed description, transported me to the banks of the gorge, to the terrace as it grew out of the mud, to the general everyday life of the time. ‘Birdcage Walk’ is a captivating tale, at times sinister and eerie, yet hope flutters free and somehow manages to keep afloat. ~ Liz Robinson

If you like Helen Dunmore you might also like to read books by Paullina Simons, Esther Freud and David Benioff.

Reader Reviews

In addition to our Lovereading expert opinion some of our Reader Review Panel were also lucky enough to read and review this title. You can click here to read the full reviews.

  • Edel Waugh - 'I loved this story, I was never quite sure where it was going to lead me but it was well worth the journey! I recommend this book to all.'
  • Ruth Windeler - 'An historical novel with an air of mystery and element of the dark side of humanity.  Beautifully written and a unique on its own.'
  • Catherine Price - 'Carefully observed and elegantly written, this novel unsettles and intrigues to the final page.'
  • Jacki Moorcroft - 'Helen Dunmore is a wonderful story teller whose characters ooze quality. Her beautiful writing ensures that you become enthralled with the characters and fearful for what appears to be the only outcome.'
  • Dana Captainino - 'As with all her books Helen Dunmore's research and telling of her story provides us with an insight into a world most of us will not have considered before.'
  • Elaine Lowe - 'Beautifully descriptive, you feel totally immersed in that particular time and place.'
  • Maureen Gourlay - 'The French Revolution is the backdrop for Birdcage Walk but for Lizzie living in Bristol with her architect husband, it will affect her life more than she could imagine, and she could lose everything.'    
  • Glenda Worth - 'Birdcage Walk an interesting read, is set in a time when there was political unrest. Lizzie has to deal with abuse from her husband as his business fails. Great talent for description.'
  • Celia Cohen - 'An excellent page turner, beautifully written.'
  • Sandra Rabiasz - 'Another Helen Dunmore winner.'
  • Angie Rhodes - 'With a wonderful Gothic feel, the type that has you wanting to turn the pages, and has you forgetting the cuppa, you have just made!'
  • Judith Waring - 'This book was engaging right from the start.'
  • Jillian McFrederick - 'Slightly disappointed'
  • Judith Sharp - 'A novel on the theme of how love can destroys us and the helplessness of women at this time in history.'
  • Sarah Musk - 'A tense, well written book about an abusive marriage set in late eighteenth century Bristol.'
  • Sue Broom - 'A tense, atmospheric thriller from one of my favourite writers - highly recommended.'


Birdcage Walk by Helen Dunmore

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 two-hundred-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.


This is the finest novel Helen Dunmore has written ... From the start, Birdcage Walk has the command of a thriller ... The novel's cast is marvellous and vivid ... A novel that deserves to be cherished and to last. -- Kate Kellaway * Observer * This powerful novel is a fine final flourish from a gifted writer ... The power Dunmore gives to lowly female lives is inescapably moving, their stories taking us on a remarkable journey into the visceral heart of the female experience in Georgian Britain ... [Dunmore is] one of the bravest and most versatile writers of her generation ... This fine, fiery novel will surely be remembered as one of her best. -- Melissa Katsoulis * The Times * Like many of Dunmore's novels, Birdcage Walk defies categorisation ... a blend of beauty and horror evoked with such breath-taking poetry that it haunts me still ... she has an extraordinary gift for taking the ordinary and familiar and rendering them new. When Tredevant's growing unpredictability once more tightens the narrative, forcing the story back into the ominous and unsettling territory where it first began, it is easy to see why [Dunmore] has earned a place among the finest writers of historical fiction working today. * Guardian * Helen Dunmore's quietly brilliant historical novels are among the best fiction of our time. -- Jake Kerridge * Daily Telegraph * A finely wrought psychological thriller ... But it's ultimately a novel about the ways in which we remember and, as such, a fitting contribution to Dunmore's extraordinary legacy. * Daily Mail *

About the Author

Helen Dunmore

Helen Dunmore was the author of fourteen novels. Her first, Zennor in Darkness, explored the events which led to D H Lawrence’s expulsion from Cornwall (on suspicion of spying) during the First World War. It won the McKitterick Prize. Her third novel, A Spell of Winter, won the inaugural Orange Prize, now the Baileys Prize for Women’s Fiction. Her bestselling novel The Siege, set during the Siege of Leningrad, was described by Antony Beevor as ‘a world-class novel’ and was shortlisted for the Whitbread Novel of the Year and the Orange Prize.

Helen Dunmore’s work has been translated into more than thirty languages and she was a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. She died in June 2017.

Author photo © Caroline Forbes

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Book Info

Publication date

2nd March 2017


Helen Dunmore

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Hutchinson an imprint of Cornerstone


416 pages


Literary Fiction
Books of the Month
Historical Fiction
eBook Favourites

Historical fiction



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