Rhiannon Lewis was born in Cardigan, West Wales, and she comes from a long line of farmers and sailors. Her family was interested in history, and she grew up in an atmosphere of hand-me-down stories. One of those stories included her grandfather’s memories of Captain David Davies and the Chilean civil war. Educated at the Universities of Wales at Aberystwyth and Cardiff, Rhiannon worked as a teacher and lecturer before going on to work in public relations, marketing and communications. Whilst researching Captain David Davies’ background, Rhiannon discovered an amazing story that was crying out to be told.
The result is My Beautiful Imperial, which in March 2018 was one of the 20 historical fiction books recommended by the Walter Scott Prize Academy in the UK, Ireland and all countries in the Commonwealth. Congratulations Rhiannon! This is what the judges who recommended said about her book:
My Beautiful Imperial by Rhiannon Lewis (Academy Recommends)
“A mighty read this, I feel bereft now that I’ve finished it, always a sign of a writer who can fascinate and engross the reader over 500 pages or so. This novel has at its heart the Chilean civil war – who knew? Not me. It is also inspired by the life and exploits of the author’s great great uncle, a Welsh lad who ran away to sea and became the captain of a steamship carrying mail and cargo up and down the Chilean coast in the latter years of the 19th Century.
Forced to turn his ship over to the government side in the insurrection he then carried troops and ammunition, facing all the usual moral quandaries of loyalty and betrayal amongst his colleagues and shipmates as well as the horrors of engagement. Other strands of the story are deftly woven into the complex tapestry of events and provide richness and increased understanding of the pressures involved. Parliamentary questions are asked about the danger to British commercial interests in Chilean minerals and an English journalist dispatched by The Times to report on the rebellion finds that the ‘facts’ required by his editor do not match up to the facts he finds on the ground in Valparaiso.
I found this a totally satisfying novel, full of history told with a light hand and with the spark of adventure, with credible characters and a sure touch with the setting of an important Chilean port in the late 1800s. A cracker!”
You can buy the book in our shop. Rhiannon is married to Gareth, and they live in Wales and London. She has a son, Steffan, and two stepdaughters, Rebecca and Darcie. My Beautiful Imperial and her short stories have been reviewed in several magazines and newspapers such as The Morning Star, the Abergavenny Chronicle and others. Victorina Press launched her debut novel at the Embassy of Chile in London on 7th of December 2017. She has won several awards for her short stories. You can read more about Rhiannon and her literary work here on her personal website.
‘Not everything is of your own making, Davy. Try to remember your navigation lessons when there’s a storm on the horizon – all you can do is find the best way.’
Driven from all that matters, Davy has been sent away to sea. He must navigate a way between bullies and storms, just to survive. Against the odds, success is within reach – his first captaincy is promised and he has met Estella. But revolution erupts in Chile. Davy’s new ship, the Imperial, is commandeered, along with its crew. Amidst the terror, Davy learns to call another country home. He learns that love and friendship have no borders.
‘One final time, they would need to be the fastest, the sharpest, the most devious, the least visible. Like a sleek eel passing through the dark shadows of a river current, against the flow.’
Very readable, engrossing. Terrific! This does seem ripe for adaptation.
Skilfully blending fact and fiction, drama and tragedy, Rhiannon Lewis has produced an absorbing novel of depth and complexity. The unusual backdrop of the Chilean Civil War adds both colour and adventure as accidental hero Davy finds himself a very long way from his Welsh home. Highly recommended!’
Powerful and well written. Rhiannon Lewis has been able to capture the mood of the time and has an intuitive sense of history that acts as a crucial backdrop or lynchpin on which the story rests. It is a meaty read, one that will satisfy lovers of action stories and historical fiction alike.
The material is fresh – I can’t think of anyone writing about these particular historical events in fiction.
Mi Querido Imperial’ es un extraordinario relato epico de amistad, amor frustrado, tragedias humanas, guerra y problematica politica latinoamericana, que atrapa al lector desde el comienzo. Es una travesia emocionante, que recorre la zona rural mas pobre de Gales, el Parlamento Britanico en la epoca cumbre del Londres imperialista victoriano y Austrila como nuevo destino de inmigracion. Nos lleva a conocer los peligros de cruzar la Cordillera de Los Andes para viajar desde Buenos Aires hasta un ajetreado puerto de Valparaiso, y mucho mas lejos. Es una lecture imprescindible.