Book Review: From Waterloo to Water Street

Spoiler Alert

Anyone who has not read From Waterloo to Water Street by S.E. Morgan is hereby advised that this post may contain a few unavoidable spoilers.

I’m going to be completely honest: as much as I find history fascinating in a casual sort of way, I am no historian beyond what I had to study at school (mostly Nazis and the Civil Rights movement) and what I studied in college (church history). And so, as much as I am interested in history, I often find I am hindered by my lack of knowledge whenever I come to read a piece of historical fiction. The world I’m reading about is often too alien for me to truly appreciate the significance of what’s going on, especially if the author focuses heavily on giving a history lecture rather than telling a story of human beings and the things they care about.

That was not my experience with From Waterloo to Water Street by S.E. Morgan: a frankly beautiful piece of writing which is set in 19th century Wales, where the Rebecca Riots are in full swing. In addition to the civil unrest which took place in Wales at that time, this book also draws heavily on the Napoleonic Wars, as one of the main characters (Gu) recounts his own personal memories of serving as a soldier for the British army in those conflicts.

For an entry-level historian such as myself, there is real potential to be bogged down by tedious details which I had little prior knowledge of in a story like this one; and while I am sure a little extra knowledge would have been a boon for me (isn’t it always?), this simply wasn’t the case with From Waterloo to Water Street. Morgan’s character driven writing immediately draws even the most uninitiated reader into the 19th century Welsh country, where desperate farmers are battling for their livelihoods. You really get a feel for the plight of the individual characters (e.g.: Gu’s struggle with PTSD or Will’s conflicting sense of estrangement and solidarity with his own people) as well as the battle that is being fought in the background between agricultural workers and the local authorities.

I have very little to say that is negative about this book. I will concede that the beginning was a little slow as we were introduced to a fair number of characters early on while still trying to understand what was at stake at that point in history but this had very little impact on my overall enjoyment of the novel. Once the story got underway, it was easy to get into the skin of all the main players; to hear their distinctive voices, to understand their motives and to care about what they hoped to accomplish. Gu, in particular, was a deeply complex and well rounded character, so expertly crafted and cooked to perfection that he almost felt like a real person. By the time we reached the climax both in Gu’s memories and in the events unfolding in Will’s own life, I was so deeply involved in the events described in this book that I could not put it down until it was finished.

If you’re wanting to read a piece of intelligent historical fiction with real character-driven substance and a plot which marches decisively towards a satisfying climax, you should read this book. There is no doubt in my mind that anyone who loves a rich story, both history buffs and laymen alike, will appreciate From Waterloo to Water Street for the masterpiece it is.

My rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

Click here to read my interview with S.E. Morgan, author of From Waterloo to Water Street.


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ATTENTION AUTHORS:

Every Tuesday, I post a new edition of Spotlight: a short post which shines a proverbial spotlight on a published novel or collection of short fiction. If you would like to have your book considered for a future edition of Spotlightdrop us an e-mail including a short synopsis of your book and a link to where we can buy it. Better yet, send me a copy of your book and I can include a mini-review.

I’m still looking to interview fiction authors here on Penstricken, especially new or indie authors. Whether it’s books, plays, comics or any other kind of fiction, if you’ve got something written, I want to hear about it. If you’re interested in having your work featured on Penstricken, be to sure to drop us an e-mail or message us on Facebook/Twitter/Pinterest.

Please be advised that due to a recent surge in interest, I am presently committed to a significant number of reviews/interviews over the next couple of months. If you would like an interview or review, I would still love to hear from you, though it is unlikely that I will be able to begin work immediately.

You can check out our previous interviews here:

Author Interview: S.E. Morgan

S.E. Morgan is a Celtic history enthusiast and the author of the frankly marvellous novel, From Waterloo to Water Street, which chronicles one old Welsh soldier sharing his memories of the Napoleonic Wars with his grandson against the backdrop of the Rebecca Riots.

I had the pleasure of chatting with Morgan about her debut novel From Waterloo to Water Street which is available to buy now on Amazon.


How did you get into writing?

Retiring from a busy job that I loved was harder than I anticipated. I needed to put structure into my day and decided to fulfil a lifetime’s ambition and write a novel.

From Waterloo to Water Street is probably the best book I’ve read in months. You have expertly woven together the story of a young man living through the Rebecca Riots with an old soldier’s memories of the Napoleonic Wars into one hearty and thoroughly enjoyable novel. Where do you even begin trying to craft something so intricate?

I was naive. I had no idea how hard writing was. This was a story I need to write. After all, no one else can tell your tale, only you.

The key elements are taken from my family history. My ancestor was that Waterloo veteran, and the carpenter’s apprentice, my great-great-great grandfather. The events are factual and taken from contemporary accounts. My ancestors, like most other working people in west Wales, had to fight for social justice their livelihoods were being destroyed by tolls and taxes. I have even seen signatures on petitions.

Were there any particular themes you were keen to explore in this novel?

The fight for social justice in early Victorian Wales, but also the how people with mental illness and learning disability were treated before the asylums. My characters experience survivor guilt and PTSD, depression, and Down’s syndrome. Learning disability in particular is often written out of history and ‘madness’ is not necessarily treated as much more than an artistic device in fiction.

Who was your favourite character in this story?

Cantankerous, curmudgeonly Gu, the Waterloo veteran is in many ways the hero of the tale, although he has feet of clay. He’s riddled with guilt for all sorts of reasons. His journey across the Iberian Peninsular and through the Low Countries and on to Waterloo was fascinating for me. I’d never have dreamed of reading about it as a pacifist, but of course had no choice.

What’s your writing routine like?

I’m a morning person. Unless the sun is shining when I may take a walk instead, I try to write one thousand words each day. I think you have to write at a time and in a way that works for you but be disciplined. Whenever works do it regularly.

In reality though it’s the editing that takes the time and more often I plough on revising polishing and correcting.

You’re obviously a very skilled author. Where did you learn to write?

I realised it was a craft I’d need to relearn almost from scratch. I considered studying for an expensive OU degree but was worried I might have nothing to write about at the end of it. How do you know you’ve even got a novel in you until you try? I use books, websites and blogs like Penstricken for motivation and encouragement.

I also joined my local writers’ circle. They are a great bunch and what I love is that members range from 18-80’, there aren’t many groups that are as inclusive , whatever their age or background. Writing binds us together. We each read extracts and give supportive constructive advice to strengthen work. Identifying what people get right and wrong, what works or doesn’t, in all genres and poetry is illuminating. Emotional support and encouragement also important, writing can be lonely if you’ve no one to share the challenges with.

Any research tips for budding historical fiction authors?

Rather than the usual ones, I say join your local library. I have saved so much money and time by looking for research materials on line in my library’s search engine. A click of a button and a couple of days later I can walk down and collect them. I’ve been amazed how often Cardiff libraries have the books I need in their back catalogue. They have some old ones from the turn of the century, which are particularly useful in historical fiction, that I couldn’t possibly have bought even if I’d wanted to. Searching by key word tends to throw up books you’d not find or think of otherwise too.

What do you think is the most important element in good story?

I’d always thought it was an exciting plot, but since starting my journey have learnt unless you can inhabit your tale with people readers care about and settings they can imagine, even a brilliant plot is empty.

Can we look forward to any more books soon?

Like many doctors, I’m probably going to have to return to work during the coronavirus crisis, so I won’t have as much time for a while.

I’ve finished a second novel, The King over the Sea, set in 5th century Wales and Ireland. It’s a romp, and looks at the lives of early Welsh saints like Dwynwen, patron saint of lovers in Wales, but it is based on historical, archaeological facts with some legends thrown in. I wrote it for fun really, it’s not serious fiction.

I’m also 33,000 words into a sequel for From Waterloo to Water Street. It’s about education, the battle for the vote, and emigration in the 1860’s and 1870’s.


Thanks for taking the time to read this post. If you enjoyed it, don’t forget to ‘like’ this post and also follow us so you never miss another post. You can also follow Penstricken on TwitterPinterest and like Penstricken on Facebook.

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ATTENTION AUTHORS:

Every Tuesday, I post a new edition of Spotlight: a short post which shines a proverbial spotlight on a published novel or collection of short fiction. If you would like to have your book considered for a future edition of Spotlightdrop us an e-mail including a short synopsis of your book and a link to where we can buy it. Better yet, send me a copy of your book and I can include a mini-review.

I’m still looking to interview fiction authors here on Penstricken, especially new or indie authors. Whether it’s books, plays, comics or any other kind of fiction, if you’ve got something written, I want to hear about it. If you’re interested in having your work featured on Penstricken, be to sure to drop us an e-mail or message us on Facebook/Twitter/Pinterest.

Please be advised that due to a recent surge in interest, I am presently committed to a significant number of reviews/interviews over the next couple of months. If you would like an interview or review, I would still love to hear from you, though it is unlikely that I will be able to begin work immediately.

You can check out our previous interviews here:

Spotlight: From Waterloo to Water Street by S.E. Morgan

West Wales 1843: Daughters of Rebecca are marching, breaking down toll gates that circle Carmarthen. Cantankerous veteran, Thomas Lewis, is tormented by nightmares of the wars against the French in Spain and the Low Countries nearly thirty years earlier.  The Welsh countryside is in turmoil; livelihoods destroyed by unfair tithes and taxes. The workhouse provides a starvation diet for the “deserving poor”. The people’s fight for fair-handed justice has begun.  In the Newport uprising three years earlier protesters were gaoled, transported and shot by a government afraid Wales might follow the path of revolution, like France.  Carpenter’s apprentice, clever but cautious Will, grapples with resentment that he will not inherit the family farm. Will’s jealousy increases when his handsome, radical older brother falls in love with his best friend, Ellen.  Could telling Will the story of his campaigns and battles with the 44th East Essex Regiment help Thomas find peace? 

Praise for From Waterloo to Water Street


Have you read From Waterloo to Water Street? Why not leave a wee comment below and let us know what you thought of it.

Buy From Waterloo to Water Street on Amazon


Thanks for taking the time to read this post. If you enjoyed it, don’t forget to ‘like’ this post and also follow us so you never miss another post. You can also follow Penstricken on TwitterPinterest and like Penstricken on Facebook.

Want a blog of your own? Start writing today with WordPress.com!

WordPress.com Jetpack WooCommerce

ATTENTION AUTHORS:

Every Tuesday, I post a new edition of Spotlight: a short post which shines a proverbial spotlight on a published novel or collection of short fiction. If you would like to have your book considered for a future edition of Spotlightdrop us an e-mail including a short synopsis of your book and a link to where we can buy it. Better yet, send me a copy of your book and I can include a mini-review.

I’m still looking to interview fiction authors here on Penstricken, especially new or indie authors. Whether it’s books, plays, comics or any other kind of fiction, if you’ve got something written, I want to hear about it. If you’re interested in having your work featured on Penstricken, be to sure to drop us an e-mail or message us on Facebook/Twitter/Pinterest.

Please be advised that due to a recent surge in interest, I am presently committed to a significant number of reviews/interviews over the next couple of months. If you would like an interview or review, I would still love to hear from you, though it is unlikely that I will be able to begin work immediately.

You can check out our previous interviews here: