Ann Swinfen has written all her life but was only able to turn to full-time writing after the youngest of her five children reached university and she cut back her academic teaching. Originally she published three contemporary literary novels with Random House – The Anniversary, The Travellers and A Running Tide – but has now gone independent and is writing historical novels. The Testament of Mariam, set in the first century Roman provinces of Palestine and Gaul, recounts one of the world’s most famous stories from an entirely new viewpoint. Flood, which takes place in the East Anglian fens during the seventeenth century, is the account of courage amongst local people fighting to save their homes and livelihood from exploitation by unscrupulous speculators. It has recently been followed by its sequel Betrayal. Her sixteenth century espionage series consists of four novels so far: The Secret World of Christoval Alvarez, The Enterprise of England, The Portuguese Affair, and Bartholomew Fair, and more are planned. The series features a young physician coerced into becoming a code-breaker and spy in Walsingham’s secret service. Most recently published, This Rough Ocean is based on the real-life experiences of the Swinfen family in the 1640s, during the English Civil War. Loving the whole independent publishing process, she thinks it unlikely she’d ever return to conventional publishing. All her books are available in paperback and Kindle format, and The Testament of Mariam has just been released as an audiobook, narrated by Serena Scott Thomas.
The Bookseller’s Tale (Mystery)
Oxford, Spring 1353. When young bookseller Nicholas Elyot discovers the body of student William Farringdon floating in the river Cherwell, it looks like a drowning. Soon, however, Nicholas finds evidence of murder. Who could have wanted to kill this promising student? As Nicholas and his scholar friend Jordain try to unravel what lies behind William’s death, they learn that he was innocently caught up in a criminal plot. When their investigations begin to involve town, university, and abbey, Nicholas takes a risky gamble – and puts his family in terrible danger.
The Novice’s Tale (Mystery)
When the novice Emma Thorgold goes missing from Godstow Abbey in the summer of 1353, the hunt is on throughout the Oxfordshire countryside. Bookseller Nicholas Elyot and scholar Jordain Brinkylsworth are anxious to help the girl, but her stepfather has other intentions. Why is he so determined to shut her away for life? Or worse? And will she be found unharmed?
This Rough Ocean (Historical/Literary Fiction)
It is December, 1648, and England faces one of the greatest crises in its history. Bands of renegade soldiers and broken men roam the countryside, looting, burning and raping. In Parliament, former allies are torn apart after six years of bloody conflict. Will there be peace instead of war, or a military take-over of the country? John Swynfen, a rising young MP and one of the leaders of the moderate party, is working for peace, but only if safeguards can be established to protect Parliament and control the powers of the king. Ranged against him and his friends are Oliver Cromwell and his son-in-law Henry Ireton, intent on seizing power by the sword and destroying not only the monarchy but the elected government. Within a few weeks, London is occupied by Cromwell’s army, parliamentary government is in ruins, the king is executed. And John Swynfen is a prisoner.
Anne Swynfen travels home from Westminster to Staffordshire with her young children through a desperate winter. There, uncertain whether she will ever see her husband again, she takes charge of the large estate, where starvation looms due to bad harvests, and violent danger threatens from outlaws and the armies of both sides. While she struggles against prejudice to do a man’s job, John is shot, beaten, shackled, humiliated and tortured. Tempted by golden promises if he recants, threatened with death if he does not, he tries to cling to his sanity and his beliefs. When he finally escapes, he begins a terrible journey home across war-torn England to find his wife.
This is a story about keeping faith – many kinds of faith – in the face of terror, anguish and despair.
The Testament of Mariam (Historical Fiction)
When this news reaches Mariam, living in exile in the province of Gaul, memories of her girlhood in faraway Palestine are painfully awakened. For years she has blocked them from her mind, but as illness and old age overtake her, she begins to relive the time when she defied all propriety and convention and followed her charismatic brother Yeshûa and her betrothed Yehûdâ in their daring but perilous adventure.
We were young. We were going to change the world.
Mariam shared the excitement, the fear and the mystery of the mission, but cannot forget the horror of its ending. With powerful resonances for today, The Testament of Mariam takes us into the turbulent world of rebellious Galilee under Roman occupation, and the courageous lives that altered the course of history.
“The Testament of Mariam is set in the distant world of the first century, in lands that…still do exist, and is a tale peopled by real figures and their fictional counterparts whose lives and times come together to create a compelling vision of what was and what might have been. It also, in its scope and vision, holds up a mirror to the present day and the continuing turbulence of a world in almost continuous transition…Her writing…[paints] an amazingly detailed and vibrant picture of flesh and blood human beings, not only the symbols many of them have become…but real and believable and understandable.” HELEN BROWN, Courier and Advertiser.
Flood: The Fenland Series 1 (Historical Fiction)
Violence, greed and betrayal threaten the remote communities of East Anglia in the seventeenth century, when ruthless and unscrupulous speculators steal their common lands, while fanatic Puritans bring accusations of heresy and witchcraft. Granddaughter of a local hero, Mercy Bennington moves out of the shadow of her elder brother to become a leader of the protestors, finding the strength to confront the enemies who endanger the survival of her village and her own life. Yet the violence wreaked upon the fragile fenlands unleashes a force no one can control – flood.
“I literally could not put this novel down. Dynamic, suspenseful, fascinating from both a human and historical viewpoint, beautifully and masterfully written, this novel cries out for a sequel!” ONLINE REVIEW
Betrayal: The Fenland Series 2 (Historical Fiction)
In 1648, the coldest year in living memory, Mercy Bennington and her neighbours struggle to rebuild their lives after the disastrous man-made flood, but the mysterious speculators are still bent on seizing their lands. The local magnate promises to help, but does nothing. Mercy’s brother Tom, crippled in the earlier attacks on the Fens, returns to Gray’s Inn in London, but his legal studies are not his only goal. Somewhere in London there must exist a copy of the ancient charter granting ownership of the common land to the fenlanders, provided that Tom can find it before his enemies have the chance to kill him.
The Secret World of Christoval Alvarez (Historical Fiction)
It is the year 1586. England is awash with traitors, plotting to assassinate the Queen and bring about a foreign invasion. The young physician Christoval Alvarez, a refugee from the horrors of the Portuguese Inquisition, is coerced into becoming a code-breaker and agent in Sir Francis Walsingham’s secret service. In the race to thwart the plot, who will triumph – the ruthless conspirators or the equally ruthless State?
“What a great read! I’ve so enjoyed being transported into this sixteenth century underworld of intrigue and double dealing. The central character, Christoval, is such an appealing character: feisty, principled but oh so human. Then there’s Poley, the smiling villain, whom we think has been safely removed as a threat only to reappear in the final lines as the compelling ‘hook’ for the next book! This has got to be a winner. It’s got all the ingredients. I can see it making a wonderful BBC serialised historical drama. Historical drama but with a number of fascinating strands interweaving throughout the narrative. Highly recommended.” ONLINE REVIEW
The Enterprise of England (Historical Fiction)
Facing the threat of King Philip’s Enterprise of England – Spanish invasion and annexation of the country – Sir Francis Walsingham’s secret service spreads a network of agents across Europe. After caring for hundreds of maimed and wounded soldiers returning from the fall of Sluys, young physician and code-breaker Christoval Alvarez is sent on two dangerous missions to Amsterdam, where, amongst the friendly Hollanders, treason and treachery lurk. Christoval’s ship, sailing home, plays its part in the great sea battle in which the small and inexperienced English navy must confront the most powerful sea force in the world.
The Portuguese Affair (Historical Fiction)
The year after defeating the Spanish Armada, England retaliates. The expedition to Portugal sets out to destroy what remains of Spain’s Atlantic fleet, drive the Spanish out of Portugal, put the claimant Dom Antonio of Aviz on the throne, and seize the Azores. But from the time the English fleet, led by Drake and Norreys, reaches Plymouth, things start to go wrong. Christoval Alvarez, sent to carry out two missions by Walsingham, has a more important private plan in mind. Are any members of the family still alive? And what will become of the disaster-ridden expedition?
“The reader is intimately privy to life, history and political intrigues of the times as events unfold with the involvement and exciting adventures of an engaging and delightful heroine! Ann Swinfen’s descriptions are so well-written, so richly detailed, so vivid, and the adventures so captivating, that I found myself taking my Kindle with me everywhere on the chance that I might continue reading whenever possible during busy days.” ONLINE REVIEW
Bartholomew Fair (Historical Fiction)
When Bartholomew Fair, London’s largest public festival, is threatened in 1589 by five hundred armed soldiers dismissed from service without pay, the authorities act swiftly and decisively to prevent trouble. Yet other trouble is brewing. Young physician and code-breaker Christoval Alvarez stumbles upon a sinister troupe of Italian puppeteers bent on making mischief, but it soon becomes apparent that more than mischief is in the air. Sir Francis Walsingham’s agents are baffled by the ill-assorted conspirators, including one of their own men. Time is running out, and a missing cache of gunpowder cannot be found . . .
The Anniversary (Literary Fiction)
It is June 11th 1994 in the depths of Herefordshire and Natasha Devereux’s family and two hundred guests gather together to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of St Martins. From the vision of one woman who fled Bolshevik Russia and opened her doors to artists, musicians, writers, and refugees from war-torn Europe, it has become a sanctuary for generations of her family. Over the course of one day they face marital crisis, impending birth, teenage trauma, a father’s roving eye, momentous news from the past, communal financial crisis, and a lost love from the summer of 1957.
“An absorbing and intricate tapestry of family history and private memories woven together…warm, generous, healing and hopeful.” VICTORIA GLENDINNING
The Travellers (Literary Fiction)
Sofia Niklai, a reclusive exile, and Kate Milburn, locked in a stifling marriage, form a tentative friendship on a windswept beach in Northumbria. While Sofia forces herself to confront her father’s diaries, Kate must face half-remembered shadows from her childhood. Together they make an impulsive journey to Hungary, Sofia’s homeland. It is a journey from which neither can return unaltered.
Their meeting in Hungary with István Rudnay, also marked by the dark experiences of his youth, leads them to a discovery of the warmth and love so lacking in their own lives, whilst he in turn comes to a reconciliation with the past and hope for the future.
Sharply observed and recounted with tenderness and wisdom, The Travellers delineates the intense joys and sorrows of individual lives upon a broad canvas of recent European history.
“I very much admired the pace of the story, the changes of place and time and the echoes and repetitions – things lost and found and meetings and partings.” PENELOPE FITZGERALD
A Running Tide (Literary Fiction)
Tirza Libby, a respected and successful war photographer, tries to escape her past by retreating to a remote Scottish island. But even thousands of miles and four decades cannot erase the memories of a childhood summer in Maine: a community profoundly altered by war, a family thrown into conflict, and the British airman who changed all their lives. This is the story of that fateful summer. Only by revisiting Maine can Tirza solve the mysteries of that past and complete her journey of self-discovery. In its lyrical portrayal of a courageous but fragile way of life, A Running Tide gathers in force and tension as it moves towards tragedy and ultimate resolution.
“The author of The Anniversary and The Travellers has written a powerful new tale of passion and heartbreak…What a marvellous storyteller Ann Swinfen is.” PUBLISHING NEWS