Duchess: A Novel Of Sarah Churchill

Written by Susan Holloway Scott
Review by Teresa Basinski Eckford

This wonderful fictional biography of Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough, whisks the reader into a period rife with intrigue, love, sex, war and religious strife. Told through Sarah’s eyes, Duchess follows her life from her first days at court in the 1670s until her return from exile just before the death of Queen Anne in 1714.

There are so many reasons to recommend this book, from its myriad believable characters, ably drawn setting, polished and fluent prose, to its ability to totally immerse the reader in the past. We watch Sarah grow from a young woman of ambition and inner strength to a political and social leader at Queen Anne’s court. But her success doesn’t come without sacrifice, petty rivalry or danger, especially when she and her husband, John, throw their support behind the rebellion against James II. The reader experiences it all in glorious detail.

Scott’s in-depth research is clear from her setting and plot, yet she doesn’t overwhelm the reader with minutiae; her clear prose evokes the language of the period without falling into the realms of gadzookery. Readers will also find that the story moves along at a fine pace. Sarah recounts those events of most importance to her, and it is interesting to note how she moves through time more quickly as her relationship with Anne begins to crumble.

What ties this book together, though, is the love match between Sarah and John. Despite many separations due to his military career and their somewhat divergent views on politics and child-raising, the reader never doubts the depth of their love and the strength it gives them, both individually and as a couple.

Readers looking for a true escape into the past will want to add this book to their collection and their keeper shelf.