Bestselling historical author Philippa Gregory has turned the clock back in Pagham for her latest novel.
Philippa has imagined the coastal area around Midsummer’s Eve 1648 in Tidelands.
She is a graduate of Sussex University and said:
“I’ve always loved the south coast. As well as my time at the university, I also worked at the Portsmouth News and BBC Solent. I lived in Midhurst for many years.”
Her latest novel sees England in the grip of a civil war between a renegade king and rebellious Parliament.
The struggle has reached every corner of the kingdom, even to the remote Tidelands – the marshy landscape of the south coast – from which her new book takes its title.
Set in Pagham and Selsey, as a map for the frontispiece shows, the story makes use of place names such as Pagham Point, Selsey Common Field, Siddlesham Manor and Pagham Harbour.
Its central character, Alinor, arouses suspicions of being a witch – and it is a dangerous time for a woman to be different.
“This book returns me to historical fiction, based in a real period and place but with imaginary people.
“It was very liberating to get away from the royal family and royal palaces and into the daily life of aspiring people, hoping to rise from poverty into the New England of political freedoms and opportunities.”
Tidelands, which was published on Tuesday, includes one of the many failed attempts to rescue Charles I before his trial.
It was the first time that the people of England united to control the power of the English king and is a turning point for the men, and especially the women of England.
If the king – the father of the nation – could be challenged, then daughters and wives could speak for themselves.
Tidelands is also the opening volume in a new series for Philippa. She said the themes which it featured would remain throughout the other books.
“At the end of book one, we see our protagonists leave for London, and that is where I pick up their story in book two, but the family’s success and fortune is still governed by the coastal trade,” she said.
Philippa has written many popular historical novels. They have included The Other Boleyn Girl and the Cousins’ War books, which were the basis for the successful BBC series, The White Queen.
She lives with her family on a small farm in Yorkshire. Philippa’s other great interest is the charity she founded, Gardens for Gambia, in the 1990s.
This provides water for wells in the gardens of rural schools in Gambia. The vegetables which are grown provide food for the poorest pupils in the schools. The surplus is sold to buy school equipment.