Reviewed by Margaret Tomlinson
A Want of Kindness is about Princess
Anne, the daughter of King James II of England. James succeeded to the throne on
the death of his brother, Charles II, in 1685, but was unpopular with his
Protestant subjects because he had converted to Catholicism. Anne, shy and not
particularly intelligent, was hardly a dynamic personality, but she played a
significant role in deposing her father in 1688-89 in favor of her sister,
Mary, and Mary's husband, William of Orange. Both Anne and Mary had remained
Protestant and been symbolically crucial in England's acceptance of James.
Limburg succeeds in making the story of diffident Anne amusing and engaging. Child and adult, Anne did suffer a want of kindness from her relations―and perhaps consequently was not always as kind to them as she might have been. The use of many of Anne's actual letters and diaries opens a window into the thought processes of a woman both neurotically pious and, in her own passive-aggressive way, rebellious. Perhaps one of the reasons it's easy to like and root for Anne is the way the author pokes gentle fun at her while showing how hard she tries to make the best of a lonely and difficult life - and occasionally loses the iron control demanded of her and impulsively kicks over the traces.
The periods of James II and William and Mary have perhaps been neglected in historical fiction because neither of their courts were the hotbeds of licentious scandal that Charles II's was, and the Revolution of 1688 was short and not very bloody. They were interesting times for other reasons, though, and shaped the England that was to come. Readers who enjoy following the stories of the English monarchs through historical fiction can hardly do better than to choose A Want of Kindness for this period - though it ends before Anne becomes queen. Perhaps a sequel is planned? (2016, 448 pages including an Acknowledgments section discussing sources)More about A Want of Kindness at Powell's Books or Amazon.com