The Somerset Tsunami


It is an early winter morning when Fortune is bundled from her bed by her mother who thrusts upon her a parcel of ‘dried out innards’. Suddenly, Fair Maidens Lane, the Somerset hamlet where Fortune, her mother, sister and brother have lived happily, is under threat. The land is successful, the hamlet running well, despite an absence of men. A sighting of Fortune, and Jem, her older brother, attempting to row in a boat they’ve carved from an upturned oak, is seen as suspicious. This is the seventeenth century, a time of name-calling, witch hunting, and potential trade…

Fortune is to seek a hired position, but as a boy. Though jostled by a woman curious about her parcel, Fortune is quickly chosen by Mr Spicer of Barrow Hall. She is to be a companion to his son Ellis, charged with encouraging Ellis to behave more masculinely. Yet there is more to the Spicer family than first appearances. There’s a suspicion of herbal remedies, the raw grief at the loss of a wife and mother, and Mr Spicer’s acquaintance, the jack-of-all trades, Dr Blood.

Emma Carroll recreates the settings of seventeenth century Somerset convincingly. I can hear Fortune’s voice as I read, an urgent Somerset lilt, her confusion about her sudden rebranding, what she must hide, and what she learns. Her confusion and inner strength increase as the coastline changes to dramatic extremes beyond those at Barrow Hall. How is Fortune implicated in ‘The Somerset Tsunami’? What form do accusations against her, new friends and family, take, and who is behind the devilish tricks?

‘The Somerset Tsunami‘ is a masterpiece of storytelling. Through her spirited heroine’s adventures, we are led through a terrifying, real experience, only fully revealed in 2005. How could ‘The Somerset Tsunami‘ be explained to people of this age? What was its impact? We empathise and learn, within a truly enthralling story. Bookwagon is proud to welcome ‘The Somerset Tsunami’ aboard!

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The Somerset Tsunami

Emma Carroll

Cover illustration by Julian De Narvaez

(Faber & Faber)

An upturned oak seems to beg for Fortune and her older brother, Jem, to carve a boat from its trunk; well that’s how it seems to Fortune. She’s the impetuous sibling, who acts too quickly to consider consequences. This is not the age for acting impetuously. There are men in black coats and tall hats watching the Somerset hamlet where Fortune and Jem live. They do not like what they see.
 When Fortune’s neighbour, Old Margaret, is taken away, her fine cheesemaking considered ‘unnatural’, it means that Fortune’s family, along with other villagers in their hamlet, is under suspicion. Women, like Old Margaret, and Fortune’s mother, who run their families and smallholdings successfully, are seen as ‘unnatural’ and threatening. It seems like an impulsive girl like Fortune, therefore, who urged an older male into a ‘dangerous’ pursuit would be better removed from this setting.
Therefore, Fortune is remade as a boy. She is hired by the Spicer family of Barrow Hall to encourage Ellis, the son and heir, into more masculine behaviour. Yet, what does this mean? What does Mr Spicer have in mind for his son, and thereafter his family? Surely a girl in disguise is not safe in this arena? Or could it be that Barrow Hall is holding more secrets than ever Fortune might?
Could this seventeenth century hotbed of suspicion, dodgy deals, fear and lies include any more drama? Watch the tidal signs…..
Britain’s Queen of History, who weaves tales so convincingly that we can hear her voice, has created a rich, strong story in ‘The Somerset Tsunami‘. From wartime Britain in When We Were Warriors, to Egypt in Secrets of a Sun King, we travel to a real-life disaster in seventeenth century Somerset….


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