A brush with history: The Carey Novels

After enjoying several Slightly Foxed publications with my teenage son, I asked if SF would like us to review something from their set of historical novels by Ronald Welch. The twelve Carey Family novels explore British history through the eyes of members of a single family, from the Crusades to the First World War. It’s quite an adventure, and I wondered how my son would respond.

Upon completing three of the books, he awarded them his approval — by no means a given, as I’ve found to my distress when I try to press some of my dearly loved childhood favorites upon him. But the Carey novels met his standards for an absorbing and fulfilling read, and he appreciated the history he learned along the way too. I’d call them an unqualified success.

I asked my son if he’d like to write a review himself, and he graciously agreed — so what follows is entirely his creation. (I did do the typing.) I hope you enjoy it, and that you’ll consider looking into this series for yourself or a young reader in your life.


Ronald Welch, Escape from France, For the King, and Nicholas Carey

Reviewed by Brendan Widmer

Hello! Here we are, reviewing Ronald Welch’s distinguished and well-researched series, The Careys. I myself didn’t get down to worshiping them at the beginning. It took me a little while to muster up the power to spend my few minutes before going to sleep lying in bed and reading these books. But finally I did it, and I felt better for it.

In the end, I read all three copies that my mother had handed me, For the King, Escape from France, and Nicholas Carey. Quite good copies with beautiful illustrations, they certainly brought a new element of imagination to my life, along with history, and fantasy, to a certain extent. While reading said books, I found something in common. They were all about young men, spoiled by their wealth and family power. They were lazy, with hardly any motivation to speak of, but in the end, through circumstances that only reading the books will bring you, they overcame their idleness and they realized the world they were living in.

For me, this richness and family power eliminated some boundaries there would have been in other books. I will now take Nicholas Carey as an example. This Nicholas Carey was idle, like so many of his ancestors and children to come, wishing only to finish his painting in peace and in the shade from an Italian sun. Yet, Andrew, his cousin, quite the opposite, was temperamental and energetic, wishing for adventure, not the cozy confines of the artwork world.

Nicholas, using his wealth, reluctantly helped Andrew in his impulsive attempts to help the Italian Revolutionaries. But any questions that might be aroused in reading this review can only be satisfied or answered, better said, by reading these distinguished books.

Because of Nicholas’s money, he was able to do pretty much anything he wanted, and in our usual lives, money is what we worry about the most. So in reading this book, the wells of enjoyment sprung mainly from the words “power” and “wealth.”

In For the King and Escape from France, Ronald Welch leads us through quite the same circumstances, personality of characters, and changes, as in Nicholas Carey. Yet what I also found dazzlingly absorbing was his knowledge of the history of England and circumstances at the time. In one of his author’s notes, I read that he had actually gone to the real battlefield. I find it quite inspiring, the energy that he put into writing these novels.

I thank you for straining your eyes at this humble yet reclusive review.

Review copies gratefully received from the publisher. No other compensation was received, and all opinions expressed are independently held by the reviewers.

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10 thoughts on “A brush with history: The Carey Novels

  1. I’ve only read the first book (set during the Crusades) but I own all but two of the series! I’ve been thinking about them because one of my favorite illustrators was Victor Ambrus, who died last Wednesday. I know he illustrated at least one of them. So glad you are enjoying!

    1. Victor Ambrus is a great illustrator. I’ve not seen his illustrations in the ones we’ve read so far, but I will look forward to finding them.

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