Book Review: She Rises by Kate Worsley

Book Review: She Rises by Kate Worsley

*Contains no spoilers.

She Rises is an erotic, sea-faring adventure by debut novelist Kate Worsley. Under the tutelage of mentor and maven of the historical novel Sarah Waters, Kate Worsley has created a beautifully sculpted jewel of a novel set in an Essex fishing village in 1740.

A word to the wise, the book is very raunchy and contains a lot of sex and violence. If that is not a deterrent to you (and is in fact an attraction) then dive right in, you will love it!

Protagonist young dairymaid Louise Fletcher leaves the sleepy existence on a dairy farm for the buzzing and thriving naval part of Harwich.

She joins the service of a wealthy sea captain’s house as a housemaid to the captain’s daughter Rebecca Handley. A beautiful but rough diamond, Rebecca and Louise grow closer as mistress and maid. Something deepens between them and opens Louise up ‘like treasure in a chest’.

Running in parallel to Louise’s narrative we hear from Luke, a young boy pressganged into ‘His Majesty’s damned whore-son Navy’.

He is a delicate, pale petal compared to the sea-hardened and gristled tars aboard the ship. Luke learns about the hardships of life at sea and how to cultivate the right kind of cunning to survive among bigger and stronger men.

HMS Royal George, right, shown fictitiously at the launch of HMS Cambridge in 1755 by John Cleveley the Elder (1757)
HMS Royal George, right, shown fictitiously at the launch of HMS Cambridge in 1755 by John Cleveley the Elder (1757)

The sea in this novel is a supremely powerful mistress. She Rises sings to you like water kelpies or selkies in dulcet and dangerously hypnotising tones, calling to you and lulling you into a rolling, shifting embraces. Pure magic.

Although this book contains a lot of the typical ‘yo-ho-ho and a bottle of rum’ kinds of narrative tropes you would find in a sea-faring historical novel. This novel is anything but typical. The language is inventive, exhilarating and vivid. The plot goes along at a cracking pace. Both Luke and Louise are believable characters and you feel a palpable sense of compassion for them, and their struggles in a dog-eat-dog world.

The evocative erotic scenes are unexpected but also enjoyable. This is not your typical sea-faring novel but I can’t tell you more without give away too much.

There are dramatic twists and unexpected U-turns in the plot that will leave you gasping.

It has much in common with Jeanette Winterson’s novels, but Kate Worsley’s writing in a far more evocative, exciting and interesting way compared to Jeanette Winterson, who I find to be supremely overrated.

The sea in this novel is a supremely powerful mistress. She Rises sings to you like water kelpies or selkies in dulcet and dangerously hypnotising tones, calling to you and lulling you into a rolling, shifting embraces. Pure magic.

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