A Secret Alchemy

Written by Emma Darwin
Review by Marilyn Sherlock

A Secret Alchemy is a book of three parts and three voices. First there is Una Pryor, brought up, after the death of her parents during her early childhood, by relatives in an old chantry which housed the family’s printing business, the Solmani Press. Now grown up she is fascinated by the story of Elizabeth Woodville, the Wars of the Roses, and the fate of the Princes in the Tower, and seeks to tell their story from the Woodville point of view. The book begins with Elizabeth on the eve of her first marriage to Sir John Grey in 1452. The third voice is that of Elizabeth’s brother, Anthony Rivers, one-time guardian of the young Prince Edward during his early years in Ludlow. As his part in the book opens, time has moved on to 1483 and he is about to embark on his last journey to Pontefract Castle, where he will be executed for treason on the orders of Richard, Duke of Gloucester.

The book constantly switches from one voice to another, and in following the story, it does help to know the chronology of the events which took place in the second half of the 15th century.

I have mixed thoughts on this book. The historical research was good, but it took me some time to really get into it. Although I had warmed more to it by the end, I still felt that by having these three totally separate viewpoints and constant flashbacks it remained somewhat disjointed.