The Bishop’s Girl

Written by Rebecca Burns
Review by Rebecca Henderson Palmer

Outside a French village after the First World War, workers open a grave, intent on sending its occupant home to York. Inside is Bishop Shacklock, but another body rests on top of his. The body is that of a young woman, and yet no one knows who she is or why she’s there. In present-day York, Jessica is a researcher who has spent most of the last six years trying to uncover the woman’s identity. DNA tests suggest the young woman was Shacklock’s daughter, but no other evidence exists. Jessica diligently slogs through the archives to identify the girl. Meanwhile, Jess battles her own issues both at home and at work.

This book is much less about the mystery of the female skeleton than it is about the characters. All the heroines—Jess in the present and Allegra and Violet in the past—face difficult realities in both their personal and professional lives. While this novel doesn’t have the same raw emotional pull as the stories in Ms. Burns’ Settling Earth, it is remarkable how the women’s lives parallel one another, even though their lives are separated by 100 years.