Gunpowder, Treason and Plot by Lettice Cooper
*I did receive a digital version of this title from NetGalley in exchange for an unbiased review.*
Having not studied the 1605 Gunpowder Plot before, I was interested in reading this book beforehand when I saw it. However, and this is completely my fault for not looking into it, the book itself is not what I normally read for history. A reprint from its original printing in 1970, Gunpowder, Treason and Plot by Lettice Cooper is narrative history of the events leading up to and surrounding the Gunpowder Plot of 1605 that was intended to blow up the House of Parliament. The first reason that this book is not something I normally read for history is that it is definitely intended for a much younger audience, probably elementary school or early middle school age if I had to guess. The second reason is that the book, partly since it is for younger readers, is that the book reads somewhat like historical fiction.
Even though after a page or two I realized that the book was not exactly what I was expecting, I decided to just go along with it anyways. The narrative certainly had elements of historical nonfiction as a general rule, such as with trivial actions made by the characters to create scenes and quite a large amount of dialogue. Normally these qualities in a nonfiction work are not what I like to see. However, it is understandable in this work in that it definitely would help younger readers to be engaged in the narrative as it certainly makes the events come to life much more than otherwise would be possible. Also, I did appreciate that the dialogue was focused and very plausible to what could have or would have been said. In fact the there is an author’s note at the beginning of the book stating that historical records were used to create the action and that some of the dialogue also comes from these records and the rest was created only when lacking from the records.
The narrative itself is clear and straightforward even with using multiple points of view such as Guy Fawkes, some associates, and even King James I. This allowed for great characterization and development of motives behind many of the players involved with the Gunpowder Plot. Especially for young readers, this definitely aided in understanding why some of the historical figures made the decisions that they did in those moments and what some of their motivations were. The narrative isn’t afraid of bringing up the historical record of persecutions and doesn’t beat around the bush about how blowing up Parliament would kill many innocent people. The author did a good job with the different conspirators weighing the ethics and morality of their actions in a way that would be understood for the intended audience.
Overall Gunpowder, Treason and Plot by Lettice Cooper was a fast-paced blend of hard nonfiction and historical fiction about the conspiracy of the Gunpowder Plot of 1605. The historical fiction elements of the book were a little much for my tastes, however they were done in an effective way, especially for a younger readership.
3.5 out of 5 stars.