book review, historical fiction

Review: The Swift and the Harrier by Minette Walters

The Swift and the Harrier by Minette Walters follows Jayne Swift, a pioneering physician navigating the English Civil War. The book opens in Dorset in 1642 and progresses through the years of the war.

Okay, full disclosure, I gave up half way through. There are just too many books on my to-read to waste my time when I know something has lost my interest. I was actually quite engaged by the opening action of this story–with Jayne sneaking into an adversary’s home to treat his son while the man himself hacks a Catholic priest to death during a public execution. This opening sequence really sets up Jayne’s vocation and ideologies, as well as her place in the Civil War (she treats both sides, as medicine knows no politics.)

I was disappointed when, after the beginning action, the book became more and more impersonal. It became slogging and boring; merely character names coming in and out as chess pieces being moved in huge exposition dumps of history, troop movements, etc. As the dense info dumps progress, void of character arc anchors, the reader gets further from the characters–namely Jayne as the protagonist. Major events happen that are glossed over.

The impersonal info dumps became too much, with characters being nothing but names on a page, that I had to put the book down. I felt that the author was pulling out and out and out until I could not longer see the narrative, nor the characters or whatever arcs may have been attempted.