History lovers, this one is for you! T/W: death, suicide
BY ELEANOR NOYCE, IMAGE VIA UNBOUND
Hey, bookworms! In need of a sapphic read to accompany your summer holiday? Look no further than The Low Road by Katharine Quarmby. Set in rural England, London and Australia in the early nineteenth century, this novel brings lost histories to life. Note: this could be one for fans of Gentleman Jack, Portrait Of A Lady On Fire, etc etc. It’s a dark tale, but there’s a lesbian romance at its heart.
Based on the true story uncovered in the parish records of Waveney Valley in Norfolk, the tale follows the story of Mary Tyrell, a local woman who died by suicide after being arrested regarding the death of her baby daughter. After her death, her body was taken to ‘trial’ at the local inn – here, she was found to have committed the crime of “felo de se”, or self-murder. Her body was buried in an unmarked grave, with her remaining family members stripped of their belongings.
Mary’s surviving daughter, uncovered by Katharine Quarmby in the records as A.T., was traced to the Refuge for the Destitute in Hackney. Here, she met Anne Simpkins, and they forged a friendship that blossomed into love. Later standing trial at the Old Bailey for stealing laundry from the Refuge, the pair were to be transported to Australia, sent to the Millbank Penitentiary in the interim. They were later pardoned in 1824. However, A.T. and Anne quickly disappeared from the records, so the remainder of The Low Road’s Australian setting is closely informed by the true stories of the men and women who were exiled to Australia in what constitutes one of the largest forced migrations in British history.
If you’d like to support this novel in getting published, please consider making a pledge via the Unbound website here. These start at £10 for an e-book or £25 for the hardback version. There’s tonnes of merch on offer too! To keep up with Katharine Quarmby, follow her on Twitter.
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