For a while now, I've been undecided about my favourite genre. This book, however, helped me realize that Historical Fictions are the books I love to read the most. "The Bishop's Girl" by Rebecca Burns is an intricately woven story that deals with identity and identification, love and romance, jobs and family life, and most of all, discovery.
Jess is a certified archivist who works at the Shacklock Library. Under a strict, work-absorbed professor, she researches the unidentified body of a young woman who was buried with the famous Bishop Shacklock sometime in the First World War.
Struggling to find anything of relevance that hasn't been reviewed in her last six years at the library, she stumbles upon a document that could possibly change history. She leaves town, and her family, for a weekend to investigate a hunch, and in doing so, meets a young gentleman who clearly displays his interest in her.
Travelling from an unhappy marriage to a complicated affair, Jess is soon wrapped in a web of lies and mysteries. As she further investigates the mystery woman though, Jess re-discovers her passion for work, and uncovers a magnificent story.
The book is told mainly through Jess's perspective, although towards the middle of the novel, letters and other documents are incorporated into the story. These tales from the past are quite distinctive, and very obviously differ from the narrative tone of Jess's writing.
The story also underlines the importance of all relationships. Jess struggles to rekindle her relationship with her husband, at the same time managing to start and maintain friendships and acknowledge acquaintances. She takes her life into her own hands, and stands up for herself, earning the respect and humility of her boss.
Jess traces the path of her research from city to city and even to foreign countries. This adds an essential feeling of reality and necessity to the book, implying Jess's deep connection with her work. She starts out aggressive towards all Shacklock-related inquiries, but soon realizes her need to fulfill the identity of this unknown woman.
Burns discusses the mark one leaves on the world after one's demise quite bluntly in the book. Through Jess's character, she lets the world know that an identity is more to one person than it is to the world, but the world is something less without that identity. She describes the history that is hidden without identity, and emphasizes that a name can unlock mysteries to anyone who is willing to learn. This idea shines prominently through the novel, yet is only explained near to the end.
If I had to recommend this book to a certain type of reader, I'd certainly recommend it to the adult fiction readers. I'd also encourage anyone who enjoys history as a subject to pick up this book. It's not completely based on fact, but it does shed some light on the nursing habits of WWI. If you are a YA reader looking to try something new, this book might be your guide into the historical fiction world. Most importantly, if you're looking for a great book....this one's for you!