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The Swift and the Harrier

"A truly, utterly, gripping English Civil War love story that is as fleet and majestic as the birds of the title. This is Minette Walters at her brilliant best."

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LoveReading Says

LoveReading Says

Any new story by Minette Walters is grounds for great rejoicing and The Swift and The Harrier, her fourth historical fiction, is an impeccable stand alone that, from the opening eight words “As the hour for the priests’ execution approached…” holds you in its thrall until the very last word of the final line.

Set 1642, in Dorset, tensions between friends and neighbours reflect the mood of the nation, as allegiance to the King and Crown confronts the rising tide of Parliamentarianism and bloody war stalks the land.

Jayne Swift is a trained and talented physician, from a loyal Royalist family, who heals without fear or favour. Dedicated to treating the sick and injured whatever their belief or politics, she wins the respect of all who know her through her diligence and professionalism, at a time when female physicians were barred from formal practise, and so being to medicine, albeit in fiction, what Sofonisba Anguisolla was, in reality, to art a century before.

As counterpoint to Swift’s openness and straightforward morality is William Harrier, whose mysterious appearances, and apparent duplicity, mark him as a connected but untrustworthy character, for whom the war is but a means to achieve a greater good.

Impressively imagined and so beautifully written, The Swift and the Harrier is a perfect story, full of Walters’ trademark sense of place and time, with characters that are so fully formed and natural you feel you know them, and all wrapped in a story so well drawn that the images it creates in your imagination will endure long after you finished reading it. It is a complete, perfect, triumph of a tale.

Paul Blezard

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Reader Reviews

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Rousing historical fiction and a real page-turner with an inspirational woman at its heart.

Following her two epic novels on the Black Death, Minette Walters returns with a rousing historical fiction novel and love story set against the backdrop of the English Civil War with an inspirational woman at its heart. Spanning 1942 to 1949 and predominantly set in Dorset the novel is centred around not yet twenty-seven-year-old Jayne Swift, a brilliantly drawn physician by training and a woman to be admired from a loyal Royalist family.... Read Full Review

Rachel Hall

This gripping and fascinating book dealt with the period of the English Civil war. It centred around the fortunes of one Dorset family whose members took opposing sides in the conflict. Jayne Swift - a physician - and William Harrier - a spy - are drawn to each other. They are supported by a number of convincing secondary characters. I am not normally drawn to historical fiction but the context and characters were well drawn and I wanted to find out what happened to them. An absorbing read - one which I will be recommending.

I found this book ‘gripping and fascinating’. It dealt with the English civil war - a period I was unfamiliar with but that did not matter as the author brought the historical context to life. The book centred on the effect of the civil war on a Dorset family where different members held opposing views on the conflict and on the interactions between Jayne Swift - physician - and William Harrier - spy. I enjoyed reading about their developing friendship despite the odds and found the secondary characters equally convincing.

Historical fiction is not my typical read but I could not put this book down.... Read Full Review

Heather Howarth

This novel is a historical masterpiece, opening in 1642, predominantly focusing on the role of women, strong women in the context of the Civil War. It is both entertaining and educational.

Minette Walters enables us to step into the Tardis and travel seamlessly to the 17th Century – her descriptive and evocative writing conjuring up the odours, sounds, and sights of a crucial period during the Civil War when battles between the Royalists and Parliament rage causing untold horror and devastation.
Deeply embedded within this is the story of Jayne Swift, a renowned physician from a Dorset family following the Royalist cause. But Jayne’s commitment to her profession by far outweighs any political allegiance and she throws herself into the cause of healing – attending the wounded and the dying on the battlefields.
While Jayne tends the sick across the region, she keeps meeting the same man – a man known as ‘William Harrier,’ a man taking on various personas and a key player in different scenarios and loyalties.... Read Full Review

Dana Captainino