Alice in Love and War

Written by Ann Turnbull
Review by Elizabeth Hawksley

It is 1644: the English Civil War. Orphaned Alice Newcome, age sixteen, is living with her uncle’s family in Devon. When Royalist soldiers are billeted on the farm, Alice is delighted to have some respite from her uncle’s lecherous attentions and her aunt’s cruelty. When the handsome corporal, Robin Hillier, makes his interest plain, she is thrilled and persuades him to take her along when the regiment leaves. She is sure he loves her and that they will be married one day…

Reality is sadly different. Alice gradually realizes that she is just one of many women in the army baggage train – women who are regarded as little more than prostitutes. Alice has much to learn about men, love and, above all, the realities of war.

I enjoyed this book. Ann Turnbull, as always, writes a gripping story with intelligence and honesty. She is interested in how war affects ordinary people, especially women. A woman on her own, without a man, was in an especially vulnerable position in the 17th century. The author shows us the problems Alice faces when she rescues a friend’s baby daughter and makes herself responsible for the baby’s safety and survival. We are both admiring of Alice’s bravery and determination as well as deeply concerned for her as she rides through a countryside full of marauding soldiers who are happy to plunder, rape and murder. She also has to contend with hostile villagers who are reluctant to help a woman from the baggage train whom they regard as ‘vermin’.

Ann Turnbull does not pull her punches about the horrors of war but she also shows us the small acts of kindness from ordinary people. Alice in Love and War would be an excellent introduction to the domestic impact of the English Civil War. Aimed at girls 12 plus.