The year is 1823 and on the streets of Liverpool Linny Gow is a child impoverished and exploited by her stepfather.
But Linny has big ambitions and, if one thing is certain, it’s that she should never be underestimated.
From the dark squalor of Back Phoebe Anne Street to the vibrant hustle and bustle of Calcutta – this is an epic tale of passion, deprivation and inner strength.
The Linnet bird is one of 14 works of fiction by Canadian author, Linda Holeman and her first historical novel.
Holeman currently lives in Toronto and is a member of the Writers Union of Canada.
She has published six historical novels, with a focus on strong female protagonists against the backdrop of the 18th and 19th centuries.
She also writes young adult fiction and has published two collections of short stories for adults.
Many books are often dubbed ‘un-put-down-able’, but disappointingly so few live up to the expectation.
I can honestly say, without cliché, that I could not put The Linnet Bird down.
It is a truly stunning piece of storytelling – it grabs you by the throat from the first page and leaves you grasping for breath until the very last.
There were so many twists and turns, many of which were completely unpredictable. As a whole the plot has a great balance, with plenty of grit and teeth.
This is not a whimsical fairytale romance by any stretch, but I particularly like that about the novel. It’s unapologetically real, which is highly commendable.
Linny is a great protagonist with depth and character. Yes, she can be opportunist and cold at times – but I love the survivor in her.
Almost every man she encounters tries to abuse her or break her spirit; and yet she has this wonderful refusal to submit to both them and the lot she has been given.
However, for all the strength of her outer-shell and core, India brings out another side in Linny.
Her armour seems to melt a little and her enthusiasm and almost child-like naivety, despite all she weathered, give her character a beautifully innocent dimension too.
First person female narratives can often irritate and/or bore me, but Linny has the right amount of edge and resolve to keep a reader on side and carry the story forward.
And it’s not just her main character who I think Holeman has got bang on – there’s a whole host of other quirky, vibrant and corrupt personalities to entertain and infuriate as well.
Colonial India is hotbed of hypocrisy and paradox and in terms of historical interest – it makes a very complex and fascinating setting.
Furthermore, the descriptive language is both sumptuous and vivid, if at times brutal, the transitions in the story are done seamlessly and the whole book is extensively researched.
This is a story which will provoke and I implore you, if you plan to buy one novel this summer – please let it be this one!
Released in the UK in 2004 by Headline Book Publishing, The Linnet Bird retails at £7.99.