Earl of Shadows by Jacqueline Reiter

Earl of Shadows: a novel of John Pitt Earl of Chatham by Jacqueline Reiter
Earl of Shadows by Jacqueline Reiter

Jacqueline Reiter has a gift for writing, both in non-fiction and fiction and this book is excellent. The Earl in question is John Pitt, Earl of Chatham, the elder brother of William Pitt the Younger, a man forever in the shadow of his sibling’s precocious and brilliant political career. John Pitt spent his life putting aside his own ambitions and dreams for the sake of his brother and his family, but despite various unflattering accounts, he was a man with many good qualities of his own. This book is a moving and honest look at the Pitt family relationships, especially the painful blend of love, admiration and rivalry between William and John. I loved the characterisation and the history.  The romance between John Pitt and his wife Mary was particularly well done.  The author completely avoids any stilted attempts to write in the language of the day and the story flows quickly and easily, taking the reader firmly back to the political world of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.

Jacqueline Reiter is a historian and has already written a very good biography of John Pitt, so the excellence of her research is not surprising.  What is surprising is her ability to translate the story into fluent and entertaining fiction.  She has resisted the temptation to show off her extensive knowledge of the period and has written a novel which could be enjoyed by anybody.  John Pitt is a sympathetic and likeable character with many flaws but just as many virtues and this is one of the few books to actually bring tears to my eyes. Great novel.

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