I am thrilled to be providing my review today on the Daisy Belle blog tour!
I studied both English Literature and History at university, and as such I have a rather large and squidgy soft spot for historical fiction. So, when I heard about the blog tour for Daisy Belle, I jumped at the opportunity to take part.
And I wasn’t disappointed.
The story revolves around Daisy Belle. Born in 1862, she becomes fascinated with the water at a very young age and is soon found to be a talented, natural swimmer. Trained by her father, a swimming professor, she becomes the star attraction in his ‘Family of Frogs’ show. Determined and ambitious, the story tells of her stunning career at a time when women were barely permitted to swim, let alone make a global career for themselves.
Daisy Belle is actually an amalgamation of two real female swimmers, Agnes Beckwith and Annie Luker, and it is their careers that inspire Daisy’s story. It is truly a beautiful blend of non fiction and fiction, with real events and historical figures introduced throughout. Whilst much of the professional side of Daisy’s life is taken from real life events, her relationships with her family and later her romantic relationships, are very much fiction and the author has taken license with this area of the novel.
I adored Daisy Belle. Told in the first person and presented as a story told to another character, I felt instantly connected to Daisy. Her career was extraordinary, almost to the point at times of being unbelievable – and so to find those elements of the novel were actually based on real life was incredible.
I must also give extra credit for the cover, beautifully vintage and fitting, it also features a female swimmer (who I later discovered is actually Agnes Beckwith). This woman is strong and real, not airbrushed to perfection, not slimmed down with Photoshop. She is a woman who commands and deserves attention.
I don’t think I expected to be quite so enthralled by Daisy Belle, the writing and characterisation is truly enchanting. I whizzed through at great pace and throughout I was entranced by Daisy’s ambition and determination. Despite all the negativity within her life, her faith lay unshaken in her talent and I thought that was such a strong and relevant statement, for even today women in sport are (more often than not) less well known and less supported than their male counterparts. I loved that Daisy, although young, was a formidable talent and gender didn’t come into it as far as she was concerned. She knew her own worth.
When I finished the novel I sat and reflected on just how many women throughout history must have been feminist trailblazers just like Agnes and Annie – and how many have been forgotten? How much modern women today owe to these women who paved the way for us to live the life we choose to. Daisy Belle has given them a voice and a place in which they can be remembered and revered. History is full of women, sometimes remembered for the wrong reasons and I, for one would love to read more novels like this; a true celebration of female strength, courage and determination. A truly wonderful read!
Summer 1867: four-year-old Daisy Belle is about to make her debut at the Lambeth Baths in London. Her father, swimming professor Jeffrey Belle, is introducing his Family of Frogs – and Daisy is the star attraction. By the end of that day, she has only one ambition in life: she will be the greatest female swimmer in the world. She will race down the Thames, float in a whale tank, and challenge a man to a 70-foot high dive. And then she will set sail for America to swim across New York Harbour. But Victorian women weren’t supposed to swim, and Daisy Belle will have to fight every stroke of the way if she wants her dreams to come true. Inspired by the careers of Victorian champions Agnes Beckwith and Annie Luker, Daisy Belle is a story of courage and survival and a tribute to the swimmers of yesteryear.
About the Author
Caitlin Davies was born in London in 1964. She spent 12 years in Botswana as a teacher and journalist and many of her books are set in the Okavango Delta, including a memoir Place of Reeds, described by Hilary Mantel as ‘candid and unsentimental’.
Her novels include The Ghost of Lily Painter, a fictional account of the arrest and execution of two Edwardian baby farmers, and Family Likeness about the fate of ‘war babies’ born to African American GI fathers in England during World War Two.
Her non-fiction books include Taking the Waters: A Swim Around Hampstead Heath, a celebration of 200 years of outdoor bathing, an illustrated history of the world famous Camden Lock Market, and Downstream: a history and celebration of swimming the River Thames.
Her latest non-fiction is Bad Girls, and her latest novel is Daisy Belle: Swimming Champion of the World, based on the lives of several Victorian aquatic stars, to be published by Unbound on September 1, 2018.
She is also a teacher and journalist, and was a regular feature writer for The Independent’s education and careers supplement. From 2014-17 she was a Royal Literary Fund Fellow at the University of Westminster, Harrow, in the faculty of Media, Arts & Design.
Her website is http://www.caitlindavies.co.uk/
Daisy Belle Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/DaisyBelleSwimmingChampionoftheWorld/
*I received a copy of Daisy Belle in exchange for an honest review