Monday 7 January 2019

SISTERS OF ARDEN by Judith Arnopp @JudithArnopp

4.5 out of 5 stars

On Amazon UK
On Goodreads

How I discovered this book: I've read a few other books by Judith Arnopp, and have much interest in this period of history, so leapt on this when it came out.

In a Nutshell: Historical fiction, about Henry VIII's dissolution of religious houses, and the Pilgrimage of Grace, from a nun's point of view.

Margery is a young girl who has known nothing of life but the tiny, isolated Arden Priory in North Yorkshire, when Henry VIII gives the order for Catholic religious houses across the land to be dissolved.  Cast out to fend for herself, along with two other young women and a small baby, the novel is about her dangerous journeys to York and Pontefract, the news she hears about the uprisings against the atrocities committed in the King's name, and her journey back to what she hopes will be safety.

Judith Arnopp describes the world of Margery so well; I liked seeing the 16th century from the POV of the ordinary people, so far away from that of the aristocracy and nobility that they might as well have inhabited another planet.  Ms Arnopp has a lovely, easy-to-read writing style, and it is clear that the book is well-researched without the research ever seeming intrusive.  

It's a short novel, and at times I would have liked more detail about various events, but there was no part that I didn't enjoy.  The 'Author's Note' at the end is most interesting, and I was intrigued to find out that Arden Priory actually existed; on the whole, Sisters of Arden made me want to read more about the time, which is a sign of good historical fiction.  The ending gives hope for the future, with a different purpose for Margery.

I liked this book very much and would most definitely recommend to anyone who likes well-written, authentic fiction based on fact about this period.


  1. I do like a book that is based about a real place or event. Sometimes, author's notes can be just as interesting as the novel.

    1. I so agree! Often I wish I'd read them before!

  2. I have a copy of this book on my Kindle, Terry, and you've given it a push up the list. ;)

  3. Thanks for such a great review and for all your kind comments. I first learned about Arden at university, just a brief mention in a lecture. It is hardly mentioned on the historical record but there is enough to surmise that things were very tough and not the ostentatious monastic lifestyle we often hear about. It has been on my mind for years and I am so glad I finally wrote about it.