Friday, November 26, 2021

#MacmillanAudio Review of A Net for Small Fishes by Lucy Jago

 I love history and when I saw that this novel was based on actual events in the early 1600s I knew I had to listen to it and I'm sure glad I did. Read on to see what I thought of the novel

Publisher: Macmillan Audio
Release Date: 11-16-2021
Length: 12 hours/30 minutes
Source: Publisher for Review
Buy It: Audible



Wolf Hall meets The Favourite in Lucy Jago's A Net For Small Fishes, a gripping dark novel based on the true scandal of two women determined to create their own fates in the Jacobean court.

“With Frankie, I could have the life I had always wanted and regain the honour I sought for myself and my family, and with me she could forge something more satisfying from her own....”

When the beautiful, unhappy Frances Howard meets the astute, diminished Anne Turner, the two women strike up an unlikely yet powerful friendship. Frankie quickly pulls Anne into her close confidence, sweeping her new companion into an extravagant world of glamour and decadence.

As the women grow closer, each hopes to change her circumstances. Frankie feels trapped in a miserable marriage while loving another, and newly widowed Anne struggles to stay afloat as she waits for a long-awaited proposal. Soon, a desperate plan that could change both their fortunes is hatched. But navigating the Jacobean court is a dangerous game, and one misstep could mean losing everything - including their lives....
Listen to an excerpt:

My #MacmillanAudio review:

A Net For Small Fishes
Lucy Jago 

Jago gifts readers with a dark, beautifully written and impeccably researched novel based on real events that features two courageous avant-garde women who dare to speak their minds. Her recounting is full of humility and humanity and will take readers/listeners back to the Jacobean Court of King James I, a volatile time when loyalties changed often and behind the scenes devious plans were frequently in play to unseat what many in England thought to be an untrue ruler.

In this “me too” era we live in now some, especially young people can’t appreciate just how far women’s rights have come in the last four centuries and most of those advances occurring in the last one alone. They weren’t alive when tennis star Billy Jean King beat Bobbie Riggs in the early 70s, or when the first woman became CEO of a Fortune 500 Company in 1972 and not until 1999 for a woman of color.

But what the main protagonists of Lucy Jago’s masterpiece suffered was much, much worse because in the Jacobean period in England women were the property of their fathers until they married and then were the property of their husbands. Plus the women centerpieced here were Catholic, Frances a member of the once powerful Howard Family and Anne the widow of the King’s physician. Papists in England were a definite minority and often-times villainized after all the religious wars between Protestants and Catholics and these women were mere pawns in a power play between opposite political/religious factions. 

The author brings to life the events leading up to the death of Sir Thomas Overbury an English poet and essayist who Franky and Anne were both eventually accused of murdering. And about the lives and incredible friendship between these two disparate women who shouldn’t have been closer than sisters but were. She also gives her audience other characters some good some evil but all unforgettable. And while obviously taking artistic liberties she manages to make the sights, sounds and even smells of that time come alive for her audience.

The narration by Sarah Durham is FAB, the perfect voice for both English and Scottish inflections and for both male and female roles.

Mistress Anne Turner was a very fortunate woman, married to Dr. George Turner a prominent London physician much her senior, a very forward-thinking man who allowed her to be true to herself and to have a trade of her own. However, after his death she needed someway to keep food on her table so her recent friendship with Francis (Frankie) the Countess of Essex was very timely. Little did she know just how much that friendship would cost her.

Frankie Howard, now the Countess of Essex is determined to end this loveless and abusive marriage to the Earl of Essex. Arranged by her Catholic family to keep them close to the new Protestant King is not worth it to her to suffer what she has. So she treasures her new friendship to Anne Taylor a woman, like herself, ahead of her time. Little did she know just how advantageous her friendship to Anne would become in the events of her life yet to be.

About the author:
Lucy Jago is an award-winning writer of fiction and non-fiction, and a former documentary producer for Channel 4 and the BBC. Her first book, The Northern Lights, won the National Biography prize and has been translated into eight languages; her YA novel, Montacute House, met with critical acclaim in the US and the UK.
A Net for Small Fishes was published by Bloomsbury, February 2021 and later in the spring by Flatiron Books in the USA. Lucy is now working on her next novel for Bloomsbury.
Lucy was awarded a Double First Class Honours Degree from King’s College, University of Cambridge, and a master’s degree from the Courtauld Institute, London. Lucy is a Fellow of the Royal Literary Society and lives in Somerset.


  1. Oh sounds amazing. These days I don't go for dark, but I can see reading your review and what the book is about - it does sound so wonderful. Yay for both of them and their courage and also Anne's deceased husband.

    1. I have to admit some of it was hard to read but it was a must read for me Kathryn

  2. I can't imagine living in a time where women were considered property like that.

    1. it's amazing how far we've come. I talked to one of my book club members who said women weren't allowed to be voting decision making members of her church until the early 70s.

  3. Very true that things were truly dismal for women back then. Sounds like this story had some real tragedy to it. Glad it was well written for you.