Book Review: The Swift and The Harrier by Minette Walters

About the Book:

An unforgettable novel of England’s Civil War, from the bestselling author of The Last Hours and The Turn of Midnight.

Dorset, 1642.

When bloody civil war breaks out between the King and Parliament, families and communities across England are riven by different allegiances.

A rare few choose neutrality.

One such is Jayne Swift, a Dorset physician from a Royalist family, who offers her services to both sides in the conflict. Through her dedication to treating the sick and wounded, regardless of belief, Jayne becomes a witness to the brutality of war and the devastation it wreaks.

Yet her recurring companion at every event is a man she should despise because he embraces civil war as the means to an end. She knows him as William Harrier, but is ignorant about every other aspect of his life. His past is a mystery and his future uncertain.

The Swift and the Harrier is a sweeping tale of adventure and loss, sacrifice and love, with a unique and unforgettable heroine at its heart.

Published by Allen & Unwin

Released November 2021

My Thoughts:

Once again, Minette Walters has given us an historical fiction to rival no other. In her latest release, she takes us back in time to Dorset, 1642, the English Civil War, and while you might be forgiven for thinking that an historical novel about war will be heavy going, it’s a true testament to Minette’s skill as a writer that she has again suffused the story with such a richly authentic atmosphere, brimming with historical detail, right down to the battles, whilst still maintaining an accessibility that would rival a contemporary novel. The characterisation is superb, the drama intense, and the historical retelling fascinating.

I loved Jayne Swift, right from the start. She was so fiercely intelligent, loyal to her own true path and to those she loved no matter their allegiance within the war. She was never arrogant or insufferable, but rather, a testimony to the strength of women, a key theme that is recurrent in Minette’s historical novels. I liked the easy relationship she formed with William Harrier, one that was above all else imbued with respect. Each of their encounters was entertaining and heart-warming and I particularly enjoyed witnessing their unravelling of the web of lies that had been woven about William’s identity. The early practices of medicine and surgery, particularly within a war environment, were of particular interest to me.

I knew next to nothing about this English Civil War going in, so I thoroughly enjoyed Minette’s retelling, which was richly detailed, yet completely easy to keep track of. I found her representation of the divide between family, friends, and households gripping, as some favoured one side over the other, and this was belief based, not geographical. This was both a religious and a political war, another aspect that I found interesting to read about and contemplate. I also have more historical context now as to who Oliver Cromwell was.

I look forward to the next historical fiction by Minette Walters, which I am sure will be as brilliant as the three she has written so far. She is firmly one of my favourite authors now and it was an honour to have a cover quote from my review of The Turn of Midnight inside the Australian edition of The Swift and The Harrier.


Thanks to the publisher for the review copy.

10 thoughts on “Book Review: The Swift and The Harrier by Minette Walters

  1. Wow, I have read all her mysteries (and one was so bleak and depressing I almost didn’t finish) but I don’t think I knew she was writing historical fiction. I love reading about the English Civil War so I will have to hunt this down right away and perhaps make it a Christmas present to myself!


    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you! It’s very exciting seeing my quote just inside the cover, for such a well known international author too.
      I’m glad you loved this one as much as I did. She’s marvellous with historical fiction.


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