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A Book of Secrets

4.51  ·  Rating details ·  41 ratings  ·  15 reviews
A Book of Secrets tells the story of a West African girl hunting for her lost brother through an Elizabethan underworld of spies, plots and secret Catholic printing presses. Susan Charlewood is taken from Ghana (then known as Guinea) as a baby.

Brought to England, she grows up as maidservant in a wealthy Catholic household. Living under a Protestant Queen in late 16th Centu
Hardcover, First Edition, 324 pages
Published June 30th 2019 by Jacaranda Books
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Apr 26, 2021 rated it really liked it
3.5 stars

Susan as a baby was torn with her family from their country of Guinea and brought to England. With her mother, they became a fulfillment of one family for “one Blackamoor lady and a child for the little one.” Susan’s childhood was happy. She “was brought up as an English lady’s maid, learning the ways of a great household.”

England, 1563. Susan is of marriageable age and needs to make a decision between two men. When Catholic faith is turned into a crime in the realm, there is still some
The FountainPenDiva, Old school geek chick and lover of teddy bears
Dr. Miranda Kauffman, author of Black Tudors: The Untold Story recommended this lush historical fiction novel and that was good enough for me.

Black history did not begin with slavery, yet there are authors who insist upon writing what I call trauma porn. These Daughters of the Confederacy types write for the white gaze by centering some virtuous white damsel who suddenly realizes slavery is wrong and that those Black folks are human. They minimize the brutality of American chattel slavery, not b
Feb 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: best-books-2020
An absolutely fantastic debut novel. Morrison's writing brings Elizabethan London to life. Susan (Nsowah) shows the reader another, and often absent, point of view of this period of popular history. ...more
Jul 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Written in a lush language that somehow does not get in the way of a perfectly paced thrilling plot. I enjoyed spending time with these fascinating and well-written characters in early modern London, a world which I research academically but seldom get to experience so vividly.
The book explores in numerous ways issues of race and identity. Looking back on her life, Susan observes, ‘Since I was born, other people have given me names and told me who and what I am . A stranger, a Blackamoor, a little labour-in-vain, a good wife, a whore.’ It starts when she and her mother are captured by Portuguese slavers and brought to England where she is given a new name and a new religion.  Indeed, for a long time Susan has no idea of her own or her mother’s birth-name.

When Susan fa
Apr 20, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Gobbled the first half of this in the sun today! It's set in Elizabethan England, where Susan navigates a fast moving world of religious tension and division. Susan is brilliant, brave and intelligent. There are priest holes, invisible ink and underground printing presses! I've been a sucker for anything Tudor my whole life and it's lush to read something with a bold and passionate woman at the centre...and not a historical figure who we are already familiar with. It's also powerful to finally s ...more
Siobhan Reads Sometimes
Aug 04, 2020 rated it really liked it
4.5 stars

I can’t speak to representation in this book & I would love to see reviews from Ghanaian reviewers. It does appear as though Kate Morrison has done a lot of research, spoken to Black experts on this period and talks of taking her responsibility seriously to represent what we know about the experiences of Black Tudors and that her intention is to give lie to the racist myth of an all-white British history in this period. I can’t speak as to whether she succeeded.

I would love to read his
Mar 14, 2021 rated it it was amazing
This is the story of Nsowah, born in Ghana during the Elizabethan period, taken from her home country as a baby along with her mother and brother by Portuguese Slavers who are unaware that Nsowah’s mother is a Princess and Royalty in her own country. When the ship that they are in is attacked by the English, Nsowah and her mother are taken and transported to England, separated from her brother. Nsowah and her mother are given to a family as servants, converted to Christianity by their new owners ...more
 Ceri Evans
Mar 27, 2021 rated it it was amazing
The beginning of the novel quickly establishes the fact that this book is about search for identity, and a journey of self discovery. I was pulled in straight away and completely sympathised with, and felt invested in the character of Susan. She is a brave, resilient character who faces a number of challenges throughout the book.
“Loyalty, love, silence and secrets were all sewn up in the secrets of my heart, and so it has been all my life.”
I love this quote as it highlighted to me the commentary
Jane Turner
Mar 31, 2021 rated it really liked it
I read A Book of Secrets as part of a blog tour, organised by Random Things. I received a free copy of the hardcover.

This isn’t my usual reading matter. I think it’s interesting, but tales involving slavery tend to make me feel bad more often than they offer the escapism I’m after in a novel. But this… Wow.

This is a fascinating tale.

I understand and agree with concerns about cultural appropriation, but this work is so seriously and methodically detailed – it’s obvious the author has done copious
Anna Reid 🍃
Mar 29, 2021 rated it really liked it
This book educated me in such an enchanting way.

I will admit to having not read a large volume of literature about the Tudor era. However, this book cut through society's assumptions of the era completely. There tends to be this idea that black history began when slavery in the United States and Europe took place. A Book of Secrets served as a striking reminder that this simply is not the case.

Built upon factual information and events, the story provided a (shamefully) new perspective on the Tu
Apr 03, 2021 rated it really liked it
In 1580 Susan Charlewood left her home in the Sussex countryside, where she had been a maid and companion to the daughter of Sir Thomas Framfield, to make a Catholic marriage with, John Charlewood, a man she had little knowledge of, but who promised her a decent life. However, this was not the first significant change in Susan’s life as she had arrived in England in 1562 as a babe in her mother’s arms, forcibly taken by Portuguese slavers from her home in Guinea, West Africa, and taken to this c ...more
Karen Kingston
Mar 30, 2021 rated it it was amazing
This stunning historical fiction novel features a strong young woman. Taken from her birth country as a baby, Susan initially grows up as the companion for a young lady before tragic events change the course of her life again. Having been secretly brought up in the Catholic faith, she finds herself in London, helping a printer produce illegal documents supporting the Catholic faith, whilst searching for the brother she thought had died years earlier.

This book is beautifully written, bringing to
Claire (c.isfor.claire_reads)
Firstly how absolutely stunning is the cover of this book. It's beautiful!

Gripping me from the first few pages. This was an intriguing, complex and well researched storyline. Although a book of fiction - there is a story to be told through it's pages - on being a black Catholic in 15th Century. History portrays an almost 'white' population in England and this certainly wasn't the case. It was easy to forget that I was reading a fictional story.

The character of Susan drew me in instantly and I w
CJ Mason The Fallen Librarian Reviews
This is a phenomenal read, my review is on my blog, https://thefallenlibrarian.wordpress.... ...more
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