Tides of War: Book summary and reviews of Tides of War by Stella Tillyard

Tides of War

A Novel

By Stella Tillyard

Tides of War
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  • Published in USA  Oct 2011,
    368 pages.

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Book Summary

Tides of War opens in England with the recently married, charmingly unconventional Harriet preparing to say goodbye to her husband, James, as he leaves to join the Duke of Wellington's troops in Spain.

Harriet and James's interwoven stories of love and betrayal propel this sweeping and dramatic novel as it moves between Regency London on the cusp of modernity - a city in love with science, the machine, money - and the shocking violence of war in Spain. With dazzling skill Stella Tillyard explores not only the effects of war on the men at the front but also the freedoms it offers the women left behind. As Harriet befriends the older and protective Kitty, Lady Wellington, her life begins to change in unexpected ways. Meanwhile, James is seduced by the violence of battle, and then by love in Seville.

As the novel moves between war and peace, Spain and London, its large cast of characters includes the serial adulterer and war hero the Duke of Wellington, and the émigrés Nathan Rothschild and Frederic Winsor who will usher in the future, creating a world brightly lit by gaslight where credit and financial speculation rule. Whether describing the daily lives and desires of strong female characters or the horror of battle, Tides of War is set to be the fiction debut of the year.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Tillyard is at her best with historical figures and when depicting the era; readers share Harriet's discovery of the waltz, Jane Austen, and ice cream, and witness cutting-edge battlefield surgeries under real-life Surgeon Gen. James McGrigor." - Publishers Weekly

"Dazzling - I love this book. It's beautifully written, the characters are deeply involving and the historical settings so right - in short, Tides of War is a triumph." - Simon Schama

"Love, betrayal, war and peace charge this powerful debut." - Fanny Blake, Woman and Home (UK)

"Seldom, since reading Jane Austen, have I wanted to slip between the pages of a book and become one of its characters. But in Tides of War, Stella Tillyard's first novel, the clever, messy heroine who prefers chemistry to needlework filled me with roughly the same longing I felt when reading Emma as a teenager…" - Lucy Kellaway, The Financial Times (UK)

"Starred Review. This sophisticated, unusual portrait of Regency society will appeal to all readers of historical fiction, especially admirers of Bernard Cornwell." - Library Journal

"A remarkably instructive novel. Tillyard embellishes a plot too intricate for summary with a plethora of detail. Readers…will find much to fascinate them... Tillyard is a fluent and attractive chronicler of historical detail and some of her imaginative liberties are ingenious… An entertaining fictional debut." - The Telegraph (UK)

"Hugely enjoyable… In its intelligent, classy, entertaining way, the book is reminiscent of that other fine novelist of the Napoleonic wars, Patrick O'Brian." - Angus Clarke, The Times (UK)

"This novel is packed with marvelous period detail… Tillyard writes in fluid, largely understated prose, and her descriptions are wonderful." - Lucy Atkins, The Sunday Times (UK)

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Reader Reviews

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Rated 4 of 5 of 5 by Carmen S. (Elkins, Arkansas)
Great book
Although I don't usually read books about war, I love a good historical book. This one fits the bill. Great story. Good characters that hold your attention.

Rated 4 of 5 of 5 by Mary O. (Boston, MA)
Daunting!
I love historical novels where I can embrace the world at that particular time and place. Tides of War is beautifully written and I enjoyed it from the first page on. The characters are well developed especially the strong female characters. You are totally drawn into the brutality of the bestiality and brutality of war and the lives of the soldiers at the front. I highly recommend it as an engrossing and entertaining novel

Rated 5 of 5 of 5 by Mary G. (Purcellville, VA)
Tides of War Swept Me Away
Tides of War may have been Stella Tillyard's first foray into fiction writing, but I pray it will not be her last. That a biographer of her repute would be able to write a historically accurate novel was not in question. That she would be able to develop her characters-both real and fictional, so expertly was the delightful surprise. Tides of War is an absorbing and satisfying read on every level.

Rated 5 of 5 of 5 by Theresa R. (SIERRA MADRE, CA)
Loved It!
What a great novel. I love historical novels but usually they do not meet my expectations, but this one grabbed me from the beginning and held my interest until the very end. I enjoyed the author's writing style and how she was able to bring so many different characters to life with such ease. Her characters were realistic and easy to care about. Although in the beginning it was difficult switching between characters and places, I came to really like going from city life to war life. Definitely looking forward to reading other works by Ms, Tillyard.

Rated 4 of 5 of 5 by Patricia S. (Chicago, IL)
Tides of War
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The blurb suggests that it is the story of a soldier and his young wife during the Napoleonic wars, but it is really about a lot of different people, each affected differently by the war. I appreciated the fact that several of the characters remained in England, so that there was the homefront point of view as well. Since there were so many characters, the book moved between them in short sections, not really long enough to be called chapters, which may put off some readers as the action jumps around quite a bit. But I found these bits fascinating, especially the sections with Nathan Rothschild and Kitty Wellington, the Duke of Wellington's wife. The inside glimpses of the financial world (very similar to today's) were fascinating and I learned quite a bit about Wellington through his wife. I didn't even know he had a wife during his military period! Although it seems they did not get along well--part of the explanation of England's stock exchange came through the sections of Kitty's investments with the Rothschilds in order to provide herself an independent living. While I enjoyed to variety of viewpoints, it did make the story a bit disjointed and I didn't really feel that I knew the supposed main characters, Harriet and James. This is not a book with a single story line, so readers who want to get lost in one character or story may not enjoy it, but the variety of experiences and details will engage others.

Rated 3 of 5 of 5 by Teresa H. (Mechanicsville, VA)
Interesting Story
This book started off very slowly for me and I had a hard time really getting into the story. Lots of characters and new places. Once it had my interest I enjoyed it and found the in depth history interesting.

...32 more reader reviews

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Stella Tillyard has been described by Simon Schama as "dazzling... a phenomenally gifted writer." Her books include Aristocrats: Caroline, Emily, Louisa and Sarah Lennox, 1740-1832; Citizen Lord: Edward Fitzgerald, 1763-1798; and most recently A Royal Affair: George III and his Troublesome Siblings. She has lived in the United States and Italy and now lives in London. Visit her at www.stellatillyard.com

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