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Tides of War: A Novel
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Tides of War: A Novel

2.97  ·  Rating details ·  184 Ratings  ·  61 Reviews
An epic novel about love and war, set in Regency England and Spain during the Peninsular War

Tides of War opens in England with the recently married, charmingly unconventional Harriet preparing to say good-bye to her husband, James, as he leaves to join the Duke of Wellington's troops in Spain. Harriet's and James's interwoven stories of love and betrayal propel this sweepi
Paperback, 368 pages
Published October 30th 2012 by Picador (first published May 5th 2011)
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Richard Derus
Rating: 3.5* of five

The Book Report: James Raven has a problem: He's in love with a very unconventional woman, Harry, who loves (even more than she loves James) spending time in her late father's laboratory continuing his experiments and learning about matters scientific. Why is that a problem, you ask? Because this is Regency England and James is an Army officer about to go to war.

Historian and novelist Stella Tillyard hangs a complex and busy plot off these two characters' relationships. They
Sean Smart
Jul 09, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Very disappointed, I wanted to enjoy this book since I am fascinated by the Napoleonic period especially Wellington and the Peninsular war but just couldn't get in to this book or follow the story.
Jan 26, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Hard to believe that this excellent novel is set in the same time period as Jane Austen's social comedies. Set in Spain and England during the Napoleonic Wars, the central players, Captain Raven and his new wife Harriet, are separated after only a month of marriage: he to the Peninsular War in Spain and she to London and the home of female relatives. Among their network of fellow soldiers, friends, and acquaintances are the Duke of Wellington and his wife, currency speculator Nathan Rothschild, ...more
Mar 11, 2011 marked it as did-not-finish  ·  review of another edition
I have picked this book up and put it down three times now and having reached the halfway mark with still no sign of a consistent story I've decided to yield. As interesting as the period is, I think that author has tried too hard to show off her knowledge by stuffing everything but the kitchen sink into this tome and it suffers because of that. Instead of focusing on a small cast of characters centered around James and Harriet Raven, we've got a huge cast that spans three pages of the Dramatis ...more
Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship
Unlike some other reviewers, I wouldn't call Tides of War boring, but I will say it tries to do too much with too many characters in too little time. More specifically, it isn't that there are too many characters based on sheer numbers: it's that there are too many different stories being told at once, too many independent arcs. First we meet Harriet and James Raven, a newlywed couple separated when he's set off fight Napoleon's troops in Spain. We meet the Duke of Wellington, and Lady Wellingto ...more
Dec 04, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
It’s always considered a great compliment when you can say that a work of nonfiction reads like fiction but when fiction reads like nonfiction? Not so good.

Historian Stella Tillyard has written several acclaimed history books including the bestselling (and excellent) The Aristocrats*. Now she has turned her fascination with the Regency Period into a first novel, Tides of War set during the Peninsula War. This period is well known territory for Georgette Heyer fans. Of course it is also the time
Victoria Hess
Feb 14, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It is always interesting to pick up a piece of historical fiction that is not a romance about a simpering girl who ends up marrying well (or not). This book has some grit to it. Grit of men at war, and Grit of women left behind, who must have lives of their own. Obviously, this book is of less interest to those who feel their fiction must be character-driven. Instead it is more time-driven, showing off the characters during the times in which they live.

Other reviews give summations of the charac
May 04, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history_british
Harriet’s life in London, while her new husband is away fighting, is interspersed with James’ life in Spain fighting under Lord Wellington.

She attends lectures at the Royal Institution, where she meets and makes friends with Frederick Winsor whose National Light and Heat Company hopes to light the country with new coal gas lamps. She loves chemistry and thought that “sewing, with its thimbles and delicate thread, had none of the satisfactions of chemistry. A pastime was just that. Chemistry, or
Marguerite Kaye
I haven't rated this book because I couldn't finish it. I really wanted to like it. It had all the hallmarks of somethig I would really enjoy, set in a period I love, with a war drving the structute, one of my favourite themes. It had a great mix or real and historical characters, and it was written by someone whose histories I've really enjoyed. But...

Stella Tillyard is a great, readable historian, but IMHO she's not a novelist. The most fundamental issue I had was that it read like a history,
Sep 06, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
War is a time when women can do as they wish . . .

This complex and beautifully written book brings to life the fascinating world of Regency England, a time of war, great scientific advancements and the Romantic poets. Like War and Peace and Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, two other engrossing Napoleonic era novels, this is a big story thickly populated with lots of well-drawn and engaging characters, both historical and fictional, but if a large cast is not something you enjoy Tides of War wil
Diane S ☔
I did the enjoy the historical portion of this novel having little knowledge on the Peninsular War and the war scenes are very powerful. Her depiction of the cruel Wellington was enlightening and I applaud the author for portraying the lives of the women left behind while all the men are off fighting. That said I found it at times difficult to keep track of all the characters and all the different story lines, I think there were at least seven, and in the conversations between the characters see ...more
A new Tillyard?? And a novel this time? In the Peninsular Wars?? Fuck yes, I am ALL OVER this. STAT.
Oct 08, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This isn't interesting. It should be, but it isn't. Maybe I just can't care about any of the characters, but I stopped in the middle of it and I doubt I'll pick it back up again.
Jori Richardson
Nov 23, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jori by: Early Reviewers
The description of this book on Amazon sounded stunning. First of all, there were the central themes: it involved a little-known war, was set in both 19th Century Spain and London, involved the Wellington family, a beautiful Spanish female spy, an inventor, a physician, and an eccentric young woman. Those plot elements alone would have easily compelled me to read it. And then, there is the writing of the description, which ends with the lyrical "Tides of War is drenched in an unforgettable atmos ...more
Shaz Goodwin
Apr 13, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have a personal interest in the time period this historical novel portrays, having not only ancestors who took part in the Napoleonic wars but also my direct line of descent who shortly after 1815 migrated to London from Wales. I couldn’t pass the chance of reading a story that I identified with!

From an historical perspective the story doesn’t disappoint. I enjoyed reading about how the changes in London were taking place – losing fields and orchards - which were being replaced by buildings.
Apr 10, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Tides of War is a historical novel, set in London and Spain during the Napoleonic wars.

Harriet and James are newly married, enjoying the first flush of young love, when James is called to fight in Spain. He will be away for some years and the couple soon discover that absence doesn't necessarily make the heart grow fonder. The novel alternates between the trials and tribulations of the British soldiers in Spain and the women left behind in London, trying to get on with their lives while all the
Tides of War is a good historical fiction novel with a feminist tinge that would have been great if the war parts would have been skipped and only the women's (and the few London male characters) pov and the London action would have been presented - the last part that deals with Waterloo from a distance so to speak shows this point quite clearly also as the novel ends on a very good note partly due precisely to this decision to skip the tedious (and done in countless other books) war scenes. Act ...more
Bronwyn Mcloughlin
I really enjoyed this one - it is set in the Regency era, with the turmoil of the Napoleonic wars playing out in the lives of the characters. It is a story with modern sensibilities about relationships, about the impact of war on the mental and physical health of those enmeshed in it. About women discovering their freedom and capabilities, denied them when the men are at home. It is a densely packed tale - not hard to navigate, but with so many people and events encompassed, but deftly, with a l ...more
Nov 10, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Tillyard's literary debt reads like a well-written history of the Regency period, which is unsurprising since she's a good biographer and historian. However, much like history, The Tides of War> meanders through the lives of its characters, fictional and historical, rather than taking the reader on a narrative journey. Those characters, while well-drawn and believable, pursue their own ends with a remarkable ennui, considering that they're in the midst of one of the Napoleonic Wars, variously ...more
Harriet Raven is newly married and her husband James is off to war in Spain in the Duke of Wellington’s forces. Like any military wife she must deal with his absence as best she can. Harriet is an unusual woman as she is interested in science having helped her father Sir William Guest with his experiments. While her husband is absent she goes to London to spend time with her aunt and makes friend with Kitty, the Duke of Wellington’s wife, who is also uninterested in the usual womanly interests o ...more
Jul 02, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Tillyard is a British historian who has written several non-fiction histories including one about George III. Tides of War is her first attempt at a novel. She should either return to non-fiction histories or greatly improve her novelistic abilities. The book is a hodge-podge. Is it a historical novel, a romance novel set in the early 1800s, or a modern feminist treatise? There is little detail explaining the long conflict between England and France during the Peninsular Wars. A main character, ...more
Oct 31, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-reads
I am a big fan of historical fiction. Yet, although I love the characters and the history, I have to admit that the writing itself sometimes leaves something to be desired and the dialogue is often confusing and stilted. I imagine its difficult to create interesting conversations for people long dead from times long ago. This book about England and Spain during the time of the Peninsular War is an exception. While there are intriguing historical figures and lots of rich history, the writing is g ...more
Sep 23, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ever since reading The Trumpet Major at school I have loved reading about the Napoleonic War and I am a fan of the Bernard Cornwell Sharpe series and the Patrick O'Brian books, so I was really looking forward to delving into this novel which is set in the same period.
The book is undoubtedly well researched and written but it did not engage me. I found both of the 2 main characters, James Raven and his wife Harriet, selfish, unappealing and uninteresting. Although some of the minor characters are
Tara Chevrestt
I bailed somewhere in part 2. Though rich in history, the story is extremely slow moving.. It's too darn busy introducing one character after another.. Just when you feel you have it all straight in your mind, so and so is married to so and so, he is a general, she is secretly in love with this other guy who is a lawyer/doctor or whatever, yet another character is introduced, an aunt, a painter... OMG. What I failed to realize when I signed up to read this book is that there are so many characte ...more
Elaine Dowling
I'm a Stella Tillyard fan girl. She is one of my favorite biographers. This was an interesting book, and an effective book; but it reads very much like what it is -- a novel written by a biographer. You see, a biographer doesn't choose plot. The plot is the subject's life, and it is your job to make the subject real. The characters in this book are very well drawn. They are real, convincing, grounded and believable. What the book lacks is plot. It uses, instead, its theme. The theme is how the w ...more
Margaret Sankey
I would be very surprised if there is anything about late 18th century Britain that someone in the Tillyard-Brewer household does not know, so the historical fiction produced is considerably better than the usual standard, and I am sympathetic to the compulsion to embroider in the edges where strictly historical documentation shuts us out of the dead people we spend so much time with. Tillyard inserts a handful of fictional people to illuminate the real ones over the course of 1812-1815 in the S ...more
I found this novel took a while to get in to, when I did I quite enjoyed it, but I'm not sure it's something that's going to stay with me.

The novel takes place predominantly during the Peninsular War, following both some of the soldiers and seeing how those in England cope with the situation. There were quite a few characters and quite a lot going on; I did feel that we never really got deep enough into any of the characters to really know them - really, my favourite was Racket the dog! It was t
Sue Myers
I was looking for an interesting historical fiction about Europe and Gen. Wellington during the War of 1812. What I got was tough, dull reading. Discussed what the women were doing at home and what the men were doing in Spain as they tried to drive Bonaparte and the French out of the area. Harriet, main character, was interested in science and she had an affair with Frederick, a man who developed gas lighting in England. James, her husband, went to Spain as a member of Wellington's army and had ...more
Sarah Wagner
*I received a copy of this book through LibraryThing Early Reviewers.*

Stella Tillyard weaves together intertwining tales, moving between the Peninsula War in Spain and the home front in England. Historical figures such as the British general Wellington, the Spanish painter Goya, the banker Nathan Rothschild, and the visionary Frederick Winsor gives a depth to the narrative and display the different aspects of a rich period of history. I found myself particularly attracted to the character of Kit
Oct 27, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Although slow starting, this superb historical piece depicts the Peninsular War in rare depth. From generals to lowly soldiers, from the home front to the battlefield, it’s an honest, raw view of war and its effects. Fortunately, some intensely sad scenes are countered by little rays of happiness and hope.
The portrayal of real people, including Wellington and his intelligent but neglected wife Kitty, financier Nathan Rothschild and inventor Frederick Winsor (who are both social outsiders), is
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Sweeping Sagas: The Tides of War Part One 44 18 Sep 03, 2011 03:25PM  
Sweeping Sagas: The Tides of War Part Two 8 6 Sep 03, 2011 03:23PM  
Sweeping Sagas: The Tides of War Stella Tillyard 2 7 Sep 01, 2011 12:47AM  
Sweeping Sagas: The Tides of War - completed 1 4 Aug 31, 2011 07:04PM  
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Stella Tillyard is a British author, best known for the best-selling Aristocrats: Caroline, Emily, Louisa and Sarah Lennox, 1740-1832 which was made into a BBC Miniseries in 1999.

Stella Tillyard studied at Oxford and Harvard Universities, and the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. She has taught at Harvard, UCLA, and the University of London. For long periods she has lived in the United St
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