The Illumination Of Ursula Flight by Anna – Marie Crowhurst
‘ON THE 15TH DAY OF DECEMBER IN THE YEAR OF OUR LORD 1664, A GREAT LIGHT BLOOMED IN THE DARK SKY…’
Born on the night of a bad-luck comet, Ursula Flight has a difficult destiny written in the stars. Growing up with her family in the country, she is educated by a forward-thinking father who enables her to discover a love of reading, writing and astrology. Ursula dreams of becoming a famous playwright, but is devastated to learn she must instead fulfil her family’s expectations and marry. Trapped and lost, Ursula plots her escape – but her freedom will come at a price.
As Ursula’s dangerous desires play out, both on and off the stage, she’s flung into a giddy world of actors, aristocrats and artistic endeavours which will change her life irrevocably.
A gutsy coming-of-age story about a spirited young woman struggling to lead a creative life, this uplifting tale vividly evokes the glittering world of Restoration-era theatre. For anyone who has ever tried to succeed against the odds, The Illumination of Ursula Flight is an inspiring journey of love and loss, heartbreak and all-consuming passion. This is a debut pulsating with life for readers of Jessie Burton, Sarah Waters and Sarah Perry.
On the fifteenth day of December in the year of our Lord 1664, a great light bloomed in the dark sky and crept slowly and silently across the blackness: a comet. The prating in the coffeehouses was of the evil the fiery star portended. Such astrological phenomena, it was known, brought war, famine, disease, fire and flood; the fall of kingdoms, the death of princes, mighty tempests, great frosts, cattle-plague and French pox. Every evening afterwards, though snow lay on the ground and the air bit with frost, men across the land threw open their windows and went out of their doors in cloaks and mufflers to gaze at the heavens, necks stretched up, hands shielding eyes, crooking long fingers to trace the burning thing that flamed across the night, while dogs moaned in their kennels and wise women chanted incantations against bright malignant spirits.
My mother, then in her fourth lying-in for childbed, had heard the tattle, by letter, from her sister, and begged her lady to open up the chamber curtains, the windows being tight fastened against ill winds. A fire blazed in the grate and bitter herbs got from the apothecary smoked in pots. My mother, taut and swollen, sweated in her night-shift.
It was hard to see at first, my mother said: that night the sky was so pricked with stars, the air so thick and dark. But as she gazed, wet-faced, propped full-bellied on her pillows, there broke out from under a cloud a great white star with a flickering tail. At the sight of it she cried out in wonder, and, I think, in fear, and doing so broke her water: her agonies began.
Thus began, too, my journey into the world: she, crying and clawing, as I strained, sightless and bloodied, to meet the wonder which that very moment was bursting through the empyrean. With a wrench, I was born, into the deepest part of the night, blinking, kicking, then so strangely silent they thought me dead, just as the comet ended its glowing travails and disappeared from earthly sight.
Anna – Marie Crowhurst
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