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Act of Oblivion/Robert Harris

Critics have hailed Robert Harris’ latest novel as his best since Fatherland.  

It’s historical fiction.

Charles II, on being restored to the throne, issued a blanket pardon to all who fought for Parliament except those responsible for his father’s death known as the Regicides.

Two such were Edward Whalley, cousin of Oliver Cromwell, and his son-in-law William Goffe – both officers in the New Model Army.

They both flee to New England where puritanism is strong pursued by Richard Naylor, clerk to the Privy Council.

Naylor is the only fictional character and the reason for his obsessive pursuit is that he holds both men responsible for the murder of his pregnant wife.

The novel spans many years and locations but is mainly set in New England.

The research is detailed and the content illuminating. At one stage Whalley writes a memoir of his civil war experiences.

Oliver Cromwell, though never schooled as a soldier, proved a genius in setting up the New Model Army which – though outnumbered – comprehensively defeated the Royalist Army at Naseby and Marston Moor.

Charles 1 emerges as duplicitous.

When in captivity he was negotiating with Cromwell but at the same time parlaying with the Scots and Irish to muster an army to defeat him.

Harris can also spin a good yarn and the novel is very much a page-turner.

It would make a fine film.

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About Henry Elkins

A keen researcher of family ancestors, Henry will be reporting on the centenary of World War One. More Posts