Simon Mawer has traced his roots back five generations. Emphasizing his family that was formed around the 1850’s, Ancestry describes relatives such as, Abraham Black who leaves home to become an apprentice seaman at the age of fifteen and Annie Mawer, nee Scanlon, an illiterate Irish girl who finds ways to keep her family fed and housed after her husband is sent off to fight in the Crimean War.
Perhaps because these and other characters in Ancestry are real yet ordinary people, I was captivate by this work of nonfiction. Mawer is a fine writer who not only keenly depicts the hardships his ancestors endured, but also what life was like for so many during those times.
Warning: Mawer’s descriptions of the Crimean war are difficult to read. The most horrific rendering of war that I’ve read in a long time.