Book Review, Classic, England, Family, Friendship, Grief, Guilt, Happiness, Loneliness, Marriage, Relationships, Soldier, Strong Heroine, Victorian, WWI

The Tree of Heaven by May Sinclair | #BookReview @BL_Publishing @Bookhistorybite @Irvine_TE #ARC #ClassicNovel

Someone’s Ash Tree is another’s Tree of Heaven

The Tree of Heaven by May Sinclair is a classic novel written in 1917 and recently republished as part of the British Library Women Writers series.

The book tells the Harrison Family’s story before and during the First World War.

Our thanks to British Library Publishing  for the advanced reader’s copy. 

Book Details

Print Length: 302 pages
British Library Publishing (March 30, 2020)

Book Description

The classic novel returns, including additional content:
– New preface by a lead curator of the British Library
– Historical context section outlining the significant events in the years of the novel’s setting
– Biographical note outlining the fascinating life of May Sinclair
– Afterword by fiction expert Simon Thomas on the novel’s influence on twentieth-century fiction

‘You mean, and you meant that if I’d married you you’d have had the right, not just to ask me not to, but to prevent me. That was what I was out against.’ Published in 1917 before women achieved the right to vote and victory in the First World War was far from assured, The Tree of Heaven tells the interweaving stories of Dorothea Harrison and her three brothers as their lives are overtaken by the outbreak of hostilities. As the old certainties of the previous century disintegrate, Dorothea takes up the cause of women’s suffrage and joins the Women’s Service Corps as Nicky, Michael and John go off, one by one, to the trenches.

From the Publisher’s Blurb

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Anthony, Francis, Dorothea, Michael, Nicholas, and John Harrison were a wealthy English family living their everyday lives, unaware of the events that would forever change their way of living.

While Francis had a calm and maybe a little oblivious nature, Anthony was all reality and practicality.

I loved how she saw the tree in their yard as a Tree of Heaven, even though Anthony brought up endless proof that it was an ordinary ash tree.

As the story progresses and the kids grow, they get entangled in significant historical events such as the Suffrage Movement and World War I.

The Suffrage Movement’s views are especially interesting as the book was published a year before women were finally allowed to vote (not yet all women, only those above 30yo and with property qualifications).

The Tree of Heaven is an entrancing account of how ordinary people’s lives changed during WWI. It is somehow scary to realize how the certainties of today can be the uncertainties of tomorrow.

This new edition of the classic, published by the British Library Publishing, is simply stunning! I especially loved the embossed flowers on the cover and the Afterword that helped me contextualize some of the historical information gathered from the book.

Disclosure: I received an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Try a sample

About the Author

May Sinclair

May Sinclair was the pseudonym of Mary Amelia St. Clair, a popular British writer who wrote about two dozen novels, short stories and poetry. She was an active suffragist, and member of the Woman Writers’ Suffrage League. May Sinclair was also a significant critic, in the area of modernist poetry and prose and she is attributed with first using the term stream of consciousness) in a literary context, when reviewing the first volumes of Dorothy Richardson’s novel sequence Pilgrimage (1915–67), in The Egoist, April 1918.

From Goodreads



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