Maria McCann's novel, set after the English Civil War, is a mixture of surprise and predictability, with a curiously feminine male lead. Jonathan Dymond comes from a loving family, so when he is sent with his father's mobile cider press to turn his newly widowed aunt's apple crop into cider, he is shocked by the woman's coldness towards him and towards the young servant, Tamar, who tended to his late uncle. Quickly, though, he becomes aware that there was more to his uncle's death than meets the eye, and as Tamar appeals to him for help with an impoverished old woman in the woods, he is soon embroiled in a family scandal that involves a vicious rape by soldiers during the recent war.
The family connection between Tamar and Jonathan is signposted early on and comes as no surprise, but McCann soon employs a few more twists and turns.
I always wonder what historical fiction is for – to entertain or to educate – and while McCann does go some way towards informing us of an aspect of the Civil War we rarely hear about, this is really a family drama that could have been set in any period.Reuse content