This Rough Ocean is historical fiction and set during the English Civil War. It begins in 1648 at a point when Cromwell’s supporters and soldiers take over leadership of the country by force.
This book is about John Swynfen and his wife Ann. John is a representative in the House of Commons, he seeks peace between the warring factions, but finds himself arrested when Cromwell’s New Model Army seize control of London. He spends a year imprisoned; suffering torture, neglect and is on the brink of death, all because he refuses to weaken and agree to support Cromwell.
John’s wife Ann, is heavily pregnant, but escapes London with her children and servants before she is used as a porn in the war. After a premature birth of her daughter, she arrives at the Staffordshire home of John’s parents. Expecting to be welcomed and comforted, she is shocked to find both in-laws bedridden, the estate looted and almost in ruin.
Ann’s only answer is to take charge and step into the male role, find food to keep them from starving, and turn the place around. Many refuse to deal with her because she is a women, but she wins around the servants and her strength comes from her one hope that John will, one day, return.
I chose to read this book from a verbal recommendation and I really enjoyed it, the details of the everyday life took the reader right into the storyline. We followed both John and Ann’s struggle to survive in two different threads which worked well; I was equally interested in both their dilemmas. Added historical details about the times were a delight; like the remedy for a bloated cow, methods of dealing with blight in cereal crops and the burning of moss from apple trees. I was even interested in goal fever and the mental effects of isolation and hunger faced by John during his imprisonment.
I would recommend this book to anyone interested in excellent historical fiction or the plight of families during the English Civil war.
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It is December, 1648, and England faces one of the greatest crises in its history. Bands of renegade soldiers and broken men roam the countryside, looting, burning and raping. In Parliament, former allies are torn apart after six years of bloody conflict. Will there be peace instead of war, or a military take-over of the country? John Swynfen, a rising young MP and one of the leaders of the moderate party, is working for peace, but only if safeguards can be established to protect Parliament and control the powers of the king. Ranged against him and his friends are Oliver Cromwell and his son-in-law Henry Ireton, intent on seizing power by the sword and destroying not only the monarchy but the elected government. Within a few weeks, London is occupied by Cromwell’s army, parliamentary government is in ruins, the king is executed. And John Swynfen is a prisoner.
Anne Swynfen travels home from Westminster to Staffordshire with her young children through a desperate winter. There, uncertain whether she will ever see her husband again, she takes charge of the large estate, where starvation looms due to bad harvests, and violent danger threatens from outlaws and the armies of both sides. While she struggles against prejudice to do a man’s job, John is shot, beaten, shackled, humiliated and tortured. Tempted by golden promises if he recants, threatened with death if he does not, he tries to cling to his sanity and his beliefs. When he finally escapes, he begins a terrible journey home across war-torn England to find his wife.
This is a story about keeping faith – many kinds of faith – in the face of terror, anguish and despair.
About the author
Ann Swinfen spent her childhood partly in England and partly on the east coast of America. She read Classics and Mathematics at Oxford, where she married a fellow undergraduate, the historian David Swinfen. While bringing up their five children and studying for an MSc in Mathematics and a BA and PhD in English Literature, she had a variety of jobs, including university lecturer, translator, freelance journalist and software designer.
She served for nine years on the governing council of the Open University and for five years worked as a manager and editor in the technical author division of an international computer company, but gave up her full-time job to concentrate on her writing, while continuing part-time university teaching. In 1995 she founded Dundee Book Events, a voluntary organisation promoting books and authors to the general public.
Her first three novels, The Anniversary, The Travellers, and A Running Tide, all with a contemporary setting but also an historical resonance, were published by Random House, with translations into Dutch and German. Her fourth novel, The Testament of Mariam, marked something of a departure. Set in the first century, it recounts, from an unusual perspective, one of the most famous and yet ambiguous stories in human history. At the same time it explores life under a foreign occupying force, in lands still torn by conflict to this day. Her latest novel, Flood, is set in the fenlands of East Anglia during the seventeenth century, where the local people fought desperately to save their land from greedy and unscrupulous speculators.
She now lives on the northeast coast of Scotland, with her husband (formerly vice-principal of the University of Dundee), a cocker spaniel and two Maine Coon cats.