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Susan Stokes-Chapman on Her Top Novels Set in Georgian England

Posted on 16th January 2022 by Mark Skinner

A stand-out debut for 2022, Susan Stokes-Chapman's breathtaking historical novel Pandora combines Greek myth with an evocative backdrop of Georgian England to terrific, page-turning effect. In this exclusive piece, Susan selects her favourite novels set in the Georgian period in helpful chronological order.   

The Georgian era was a long and influential period which started in 1714 and ended in the 1830s. It saw the rise and fall of four Hanoverian monarchs, the formative Napoleonic Wars and the dawn of the industrial era. It is no surprise, then, that I find the eighteenth-century so endlessly fascinating, and the novels I’ve chosen allows us a tantalising glimpse into the lives of those who lived in it, from scholars to maidservants, to rakes and revolutionaries, to ladies who trade in pleasure and men who play at science. So, without further ado (and in date order), let me introduce you to my top five Georgian reads!

1765―1784: According to Queeney by Beryl Bainbridge 

This Booker-longlisted biographical novel explores the later life of England’s ‘man of letters’ Dr Johnson, and his undeclared passion for Hester Thrale, the wife of a wealthy Southwark brewer. This complex and fascinating relationship is seen – in the main – through the cold and scornful eyes of Thrale’s precocious daughter ‘Queeney’, but told in such a contradictory way that we question if her judgement of the facts can be trusted. The language feels authentic to the era, and the novel has a stellar cast of characters including David Garrick, Joshua Reynolds and James Boswell. According to Queeney is a novel of tremendous skill and subtlety in which the author used a great deal of contemporary material, with many of Johnson's words taken verbatim from their sources, making it a truly immersive read.

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One of the great Beryl Bainbridge's finest works, this immersive exploration of the final years of the legendary Samuel Johnson and his tormented love for the wife of an old friend succeeds brilliantly in transporting the reader to a vibrant eighteenth-century London.
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1782: Daughters of Night by Laura Shepherd-Robinson 

This richly imagined novel is an intricately plotted masterpiece of historical crime fiction. Daughters of Night is a hefty book at nearly 600 pages, but it brings to life the fascinating complexities of Georgian society so skilfully you cannot help but keep turning the pages to find out how it ends. Evocatively written and filled with effortless pitch-perfect detail, it is a novel that explores London’s harrowing sex-trade, the power of privilege and position, as well as the social history and morality of the eighteenth-century which deftly parallels modern-day issues.

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From the author of Blood & Sugar, Daughters of Night is a chilling, evocative murder mystery set in the glimmering town houses and dark alleyways of Georgian London.
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1793―1797: The Warlow Experiment by Alix Nathan 

Inspired by an authentic note posted in the 1797 Annual Register, which told how fifty pounds had been offered “to any man who would undertake to live for seven years under ground”, this sophisticated and original novel brings the unusual experiment of ‘Mr. P’ to life against a revolutionary backdrop set in the Welsh marshes. Cleverly envisioned and compellingly written, The Warlow Experiment feels both claustrophobic and wide-reaching, with echoes of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein weaved in. It is a wonderfully engrossing study of unhinged obsession, the complexity of human nature, and the destructive impact of isolation.

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With macabre elegance and a finely tuned gothic sensibility, Alix Nathan weaves the strange, sinister story of a restless lord of the manor, a desperate semi-literate labourer and a deranged experiment in extreme isolation.
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1811―1812: Regency Buck by Georgette Heyer 

No one quite brings the Georgians to life like Heyer and her arch wit! A staple for eighteenth-century enthusiasts and a perfect introduction to the period if you’re unfamiliar, Regency Buck ticks all the right boxes – brooding hero, feisty heroine, dastardly rake, troublesome sibling; love, money, mayhem and a rollicking good ride, it’s one of my earliest Regency reads. Don’t let the fact it was originally published in 1935 put you off. If you liked Bridgerton then you’ll love this…

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The queen of witty Regency romance spins an effortlessly elegant story of beautiful heiresses and flirtatious guardians in one of her most widely loved historical novels.
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1812―1816: Longbourn by Jo Baker 

Few novels have such a warming effect on me as this one does, and I've lost count of the times I've read it. If, like me, Pride and Prejudice is a novel that has captured your heart then Longbourn is bound to do the same and make you appreciate and consider Austen's well-loved characters a little differently. This densely plotted novel tells the story from the perspective of the servants at Longbourn, the Bennet family home, matching the original almost chapter to chapter in a fresh and captivating way. It portrays the realities of war with unflinching clarity, expertly captures the limitations of servant life, and the love story between housemaid Sarah and footman James is especially tender. Despite some of its darker moments, Longbourn leaves your heart full of light.

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An engrossing tale of loyalty, romance, poverty and dependence, Longbourn offers a completely fresh, ingeniously original angle to Austen’s Pride and Prejudice through the fascinating cast of servants in the Bennet household.
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