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Birdcage Walk: A dazzling historical thriller

3.69  ·  Rating details ·  4,701 ratings  ·  556 reviews
It is 1792 and Europe is seized by political turmoil and violence.

Lizzie Fawkes has grown up in Radical circles where each step of the French Revolution is followed with eager idealism.

But she has recently married John Diner Tredevant, a property developer who is heavily invested in Bristol’s housing boom, and he has everything to lose from social upheaval and the prospect
Paperback, 416 pages
Published March 2nd 2017 by Hutchinson (first published March 2017)
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Average rating 3.69  · 
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 ·  4,701 ratings  ·  556 reviews

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Marcus Hobson
Apr 08, 2017 rated it liked it
Reading a proof copy of this novel, all four sides of the cover are full of praise for Helen Dunmore. Her gift for human observation and the ability to show the horrors of history are picked out.
Sadly I reached then end of this novel and shrugged my shoulders. True it was very well written, convincingly evoking the time and place of Bristol in the late 1700s, but the story lacked the depth and interest to really make me enthusiastic. The cover talks about "...a novel about terror and resistance
H.A. Leuschel
Oct 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I cannot praise and recommend this book enough. I gobbled it up as fast and eagerly as I would have a very good thriller. I was deeply moved by the intense mother-daughter relationship portrayed in the story, the realistically rendered atmosphere of the end of the 18th century life in Bristol and the trap marriage created for women during those periods in history. In three words: emotional, gripping and thought-provoking!
Amalia Gkavea
‘’Who would look at this place and desire it?’’

‘’The Siege’’ by Helen Dunmore was one of the very first books I read in English, when I was 18. Since then, she has become one of the authors whose work I closely follow. Her stories are raw, with a distinctive kind of beauty, sometimes full of a kind of discomforting honesty as in the case of ‘’Talking to the Dead’’. In ‘’Birdcage Walk’’, she provides one more excellent example of Historical Fiction.

The original Birdcage Walk is a famous stree
May 02, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Set during the political and social turmoil of the late Eighteenth century, this beautifully written page turner really captures the mood as France is on the brink of a revolution.

The story is told through Lizzie who has recently married property developer John Diner Tredevant, he has heavily invested in the housing boom in Bristol.
As the political unrest intensifies
so does the marriage, as Diner is unhappy with Lizzie’s independence and questioning spirit.

I don’t tend to read much historical fi
Mar 23, 2018 rated it it was ok
A bit disappointed over this one. It had so much promise - a beautiful cover, the story built around very interesting historical facts, well written prose, a mysteriously dead wife, some initially intriguing characters. Sadly it just never seemed to go anywhere or if it did it was in such tiny increments I barely noticed. I kept reading in the hope of an exciting ending but it just fizzled out.

Nevertheless the writing itself was very good indeed and I have been told the author wrote some much be
Mar 10, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: BBC Radio Listeners
Recommended to Bettie by: Laura

Description: Set in Bristol in 1792, Birdcage Walk is set against a backdrop of the French Revolution. It touches on Radical idealism, property, political turmoil and private tragedy. Inspired by the real life of Julia Fawkes, a leading Radical writer, none of whose work has survived, Dunmore explores the tensions between generations and genders, and examines the idea of legacy as Julia's daughter Lizzie finds herself torn between her charismatic, sel
Marialyce (absltmom, yaya)
Jun 02, 2017 rated it did not like it
Shelves: net-galley
Unfortunately while this author has developed characters so well, the storyline that these characters are involved in moves so slow and bores one to tears.

Written about a crew of revolutionaries living in Bristol, England during the time of the French revolution, it details the life of Lizzie Fawkes, the daughter of a radical mother and stepfather. Lizzie married to a house builder Diner, who is so desirous of having a wife he can control, lead a life that seems dark and brooding. Lizzie worship
Oct 13, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition

The only book I’ve read of Dunmore’s before is The Siege - set during the siege of Leningrad - and despite that being years ago, it traumatised me so much that I can still recall the plot in remarkable detail. This may sound like a bad thing, but actually I have nothing but admiration for that book. Ultimately this what any good author should hope to accomplish; books should above all seek to make an impression on you and it does not necessarily have to be in a way that makes you feel
Oct 08, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Poignant, ominous, and remarkable descriptive!

Birdcage Walk takes us back to Bristol in the late 1790s when France was full of unrest, war was on the horizon, and the British people struggled with impoverishment, scarcity, impending disaster, and financial ruin.

The prose is expressive and raw. The main characters include the maternal, independent, supportive Lizzie and the jealous, iron-fisted, ruined Tredevant. And the plot, although a little slow in the middle, is laced from start to finish wi
Joni Dee
Jul 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I have never read Helen Dunmore books prior to Birdcage Walk and I wanted to thank Netgalley and the publisher on the opportunity to review this amazing masterpiece.

The novel starts with a discovery of a long-lost headstone for Julia Elizabeth Fawkes. Research had resulted with few if any details, save that Julia was an author read by many, and the wife of Augustus Gleeson, a noticeable pamphlet writer of the late 18th century, a time when the French revolution was in its height and the reports
Roman Clodia
Apr 01, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"You have nothing of your own. You are my wife. All that you have belongs to me. All that you are belongs to me."

After a slightly slow and awkward start (a framing narrative in the present that simply disappears), this is a wonderfully gripping and intelligent read. On one level, not much actually happens; on another, we have an intimate portrait of Lizzy Fawkes who traverses marriage and a kind of quasi-motherhood, emerging stronger, perhaps more cynical, but also enlightened by the end.

Set ag
Katie Lumsden
Feb 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Just fantastic. Helen Dunmore was such an amazing writer.
Roger Brunyate
Dunmore's Swansong

Helen Dunmore died in June 2017; this was her last novel. Although it sums up many of the themes of her previous writing, I can't say that it is her most successful work, mainly because so little happens in it and, while its sense of place is unusually strong, its conflicts seem correspondingly diffuse. But a book that one knows must be one’s last (as the author admits in an Afterword) develops an extra depth of interest.

Many of Dunmore's novels take place under the shadow of w
Jul 19, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
As an historical novel, this was a great read from an educational sense, but the elements of suspense where Diner and Lizzie were concerned didn't really blend well with the other major component which dealt with overthrowing the French regency. The books detail as to setting, place and life in the late 1700's were exceptionally well handled, but I wasn't really interested in a lot of it, particularly the (view spoiler) ...more
Gumble's Yard - Golden Reviewer
Lizzie Fawkes is the daughter of Julia Fawkes a radical feminist writer (in a second marriage to a radical pamphleteer), Lizzie herself has (against her families wishes due to the conventionality of the marriage and of her partner) married John Diner Tredevant, a heavily leveraged property developer whose latest project is a terraced development in Clifton, Bristol above the Avon Gorge.

The book takes place in the early years of the French revolution – as the revolution gets increasingly bloody,
Mel (Epic Reading)
Dec 21, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: arc-netgalley
Helen Dunmore has written a wonderful literary novel set in London during the French Revolution. Well developed characters and a unique perspective kept my interest; even though the plot doesn't show up in the first half of the book.

Character Study
The first 200 pages are a character study led by our lead gal, Lizzie, and her view of the world. There is virtually no plot at all during this portion of the novel. Instead we learn of Lizzie's marriage, family, class and more.
I found it very inter
Apr 11, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: netgalley

'Birdcage Walk' by Helen Dunmore

3 stars/ 6 out of 10

I have read several earlier novels by Helen Dunmore, and so was interested in reading this latest novel of hers.

The novel is set in Bristol, England, at the time of the French Revolution. The main character in the novel is Lizzie, daughter of a radical mother (whose life and activities remind me of Mary Wollstonecraft) and wife of a builder (whose views are very different from those of Mary's family).

Although this novel is interesting enough,
Jul 27, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: arc-netgalley
I received this ARC from in exchange for a review.

Set in the late 1790's, Europe is at the brink of political turmoil and social upheaval, life is violent. Lizzie is married to Diner who is a property developer. He believes that Lizzie’s independent, questioning spirit must be coerced and subdued. She belongs to him: law and custom confirm it, and she must live as he wants.

I just couldn't get into this book. It was slow moving and I didn't care about the characters.

2.5 stars round
Bookish Ally
Mar 31, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I don't know why this would ever be reviewed at less than 4 stars, I feel compelled to give it 5 full stars.

Set in Bristol, England at the end of the 18th century, during the French Revolution, we are introduced to the cast of characters in Helen Dumore's memorable book, of small people with great ideas.

I don't know if I've ever read a book that has such a deep character study on the protagonist, Lizzie, and her supporting players. In my opinion, her writing is nothing short of a wonder in the
The perils of the prologue...

As the French Revolution is turning into terror over in Paris, Lizzie Fawkes is in Clifton in the south of England, where her husband is building an avenue of houses on the cliffs above the gorge. Lizzie is the daughter of Julia Fawkes, a woman who has devoted her life to writing pamphlets promoting the rights of man and the emancipation of women. Lizzie's husband, Diner, is of a more traditional cast, wanting and expecting Lizzie to find fulfilment in the role of ho
Jan 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
A thick atmosphere pervades this book- I read it in dread. The portrayal of Diner is excellent and the gradual realisation of Lizzie of his nature is very real. This to me is the main interest in the book along with the lovely relationships between Lizzie, her mother, Thomas, Hannah and Philo.

The historical context doesn't add anything for me- the story would be just as interesting and perhaps be more gripping if set in the present.
Apr 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
Another Walter Scott longlist book read. I adored this one and hope it’s on the shortlist. Now, the Daily Mail called this a psychological thriller which proves you must not trust quotes on book jackets and the Daily Mail. I loved the characters, it’s setting in Bristol in the early 1790ies, the upheaval caused by the French Revolution.
Marina Sofia
Sep 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
A metaphor for our fascination with death, the fear of being forgotten and leaving nothing behind, a very sad and slow unfolding of the story which might be too slow for some. I just allowed myself to be enveloped in Dunmore's lyrical language and careful psychological observation. ...more
Oct 23, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Find all my book reviews, plus author interviews, guest posts and book extracts, on my blog:

Set in a period of political upheaval in Europe, Birdcage Walk is a multi-layered novel that provides an intimate and, at times, troubling picture of a marriage seen through the eyes of Lizzie Tredevant. Lizzie’s motivation for marriage to John Diner Tredevant is complicated: part passion and, seemingly, part desire for a place of her own following her mother’s rem
Mar 06, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Bettie, Wanda
FRom BBC Radio 4 - Book at Bedtime:
Today we begin Helen Dunmore's new novel, published this week. Set in Bristol in 1792, Birdcage Walk is set against a backdrop of the French Revolution. It touches on Radical idealism, property, political turmoil and private tragedy. Inspired by the real life of Julia Fawkes, a leading Radical writer, none of whose work has survived, Dunmore explores the tensions between generations and genders, and examines the idea of legacy as Julia's daughter Lizzie finds h
Sep 26, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley, 4-stars
A quiet novel, yet buzzing with life, Birdcage Walk is a landmine of a tale on the human experience. When I say 'quiet'—I mean it. Like humming. Like a whisper. Like a story being relayed secretly in a dark room. In fact, its slow nature made me afraid that it would dip into the realm of boring, but it never did. It moved along with increasing and surprising urgency.

The narrator, Elizabeth, is not terribly young in age, but incredibly naïve in spirit and awareness. So, we almost have a bildungs
Jul 21, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is my first book by Helen Dunmore and I really enjoyed it. An atmospheric and haunting story with wonderful period and setting details. Primarily a character driven story so while not a fast-paced, edge-of-your-seat story there was an undercurrent of tension brewing. The writing was beautiful and although I have more to read by the author, I am sad that this will be her last.

I received this book from Netgalley and Grove Atlantic in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to those sources
Dec 15, 2016 rated it really liked it
Birdcage Walk is out in hardback in March 2017. I have always liked Helen Dunmore's books she creates believable characters. Birdcage Walk is a novel about terror and resistance, set in a time of political chaos and personal tragedy. ...more
Lucy Banks
Oct 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
Beautifully written, but I wasn't quite sure what this book wanted to be.

My mother-in-law bought this for me, so I had absolutely no idea what to expect - but as someone living in the south-west (UK) I was intrigued by the Bristol connection, so was looking forward to getting stuck in.

It's mainly about Lizzie, who is married to a builder called Diner, though she seems more keen to keep going back to her mother's house to spend time there. Her mother is pregnant by a revolutionary type called Aug
May 12, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: may-2018, abandoned
Helen Dunmore's final novel, Birdcage Walk, is a piece of historical fiction set in 1792, in Bristol. At this time, 'Europe is seized by political turmoil and violence'. The Observer calls Birdcage Walk 'the finest novel Dunmore has written'. The Daily Telegraph deem it 'Quietly brilliant... among the best fiction of our time.' The Guardian believe it to be 'a blend of beauty and horror evoked with such breathtaking poetry that it haunts me still'. The novel was longlisted for the Walter Scott P ...more
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I was born in December 1952, in Yorkshire, the second of four children. My father was the eldest of twelve, and this extended family has no doubt had a strong influence on my life, as have my own children. In a large family you hear a great many stories. You also come to understand very early that stories hold quite different meanings for different listeners, and can be recast from many viewpoints ...more

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