Racy, entertaining and unexpected, Katharine Grant’s Sedition was nothing like I expected and better than I had hoped.
Let me explain.
Though firmly in the historical fiction camp, Katharine Grant’s Sedition is and isn’t romance. Set in London during the 18th century, Grant’s romp is centered on a group of wealthy fathers eager to marry off their daughters — five spoiled, disinterested young women. As the men conspire to teach their girls piano by purchasing an instrument from an eccentric shopkeeper, the girls cook up schemes of their own . . . namely with Monsieur Claude, their new instructor. And he, in turn, has secrets to keep.
Though it seems rather complicated, everything is actually straight forward — at first. He wants her; she wants him; she wants her; he wants none of them. It’s a comedy of errors that often results in some entertaining misunderstandings — but there’s plenty of heart here, too.
The novel centers mostly on Annie Cantabile, the piano virtuoso daughter of the man who sells the families their pianoforte, as well as the woman she befriends and eventually loves. Though every woman takes a turn in the spotlight, we get to know Annie and Alathea Sawneyford the best — and I really felt for both. Born with a cleft palate, Annie is hidden in the shadows at the shop . . . but longs to play music and start a new life away from her callous father. Dedication to her sick mother keeps Annie rooted in London, but a friendship forged unexpectedly with Alathea gives her renewed purpose.
Grant’s story is engrossing, unique and captivating. Not really knowing what to expect going in, I found myself delighted by Sedition and stealing time on vacation to meet up with the characters. The racy content level is pretty high — higher than I would have guessed — but hey, I’m a married woman; I could handle it. Some may take offense to the content, however. (Also, there are some graphic depictions of incest. Just so you know.)
With its endlessly dark subject matter, Grant still managed to keep the tone and feel of the novel light. There were some disturbing messes going down, no doubt, and I did feel disgusted on several occasions, but I think that was intentional. To understand the struggle and longing, we must know the depravity. We must understand the hurt and betrayal and pain.
Sedition is about push-pull power struggles . . . the struggle of women to take control of their bodies and sexuality; a movement to break away from familial expectations. Still, the girls were without many options aside from marrying well . . . and they throw themselves into learning the pianoforte in order to dazzle at a concert attended by the gentlemen of London: a sort of debutante ball without the dancing.
And they dazzle, all right.
Memorable and titillating, Sedition was an enjoyable story. After I got over my initial shock at all the behind-closed-doors carryings-on, I really felt the emotional changes of the characters and thought them realistic. Grant writes with humor and a keen eye for pacing — enough to keep me flying through the pages.
This is a fairly quick read, but it wasn’t without depth and wisdom. I felt connected to Annie Cantabile long after I’d finished the story. Her plight — and desire to break free of expectation, of restraint — was moving. Though selfishly I longed for a happier ending for many of the women, I also knew Sedition concluded in just the way it needed to. Not a novel I’ll soon forget!
4 out of 5!