The Quickening – A Reading List

Below are a selection of books I used to research The Quickening.

Louisa’s Pregnancy

cover-2It felt important to get both the medical and everyday language about both childbirth and motherhood right. One physiotherapist I spoke to told me that when he trained in the 1960s, they were still using latin medical books. This wouldn’t be much use to me but I did find this excellent book, published in 1916, on advice to expectant and new mothers. Some of the terminology is surprisingly recognisable. Menstruation, waters breaking, morning sickness. Many of the phrases we use around pregnancy haven’t changed that much.


While women were undergoing major changes in their place in society, some aspects, particularly in relation to motherhood were harking back to the Victorian era. The Science of Eugenics (a terrible concept) includes a chapter on ‘How to Keep the Bloom and Grace of Youth’ and ‘Shall pregnant women work?’ It also says about quickening, the books title:

‘Quickening is one of the most important signs of pregnancy . . . a lady at this time frequently feels faint or actually faints away; she is often giddy, or sick, or nervous, and in some instances even hysterically.’


3191543The Quickening doesn’t have huge descriptions of food but, where it’s mentioned, I wanted to get it right. Kitchen Essays by Agnes Jekyll was published in 1922 and gives a fascinating insight into changes in how food was prepared and eaten. There are chapters on what to prepare when the cook is absent and the recommendation that instead of decanting cooked food into silverware, to purchase attractive oven proof dishes.  There’s acknowledgement of the shortages of staff and that times are changing and some meals are best eaten on a tray.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

There are plenty of autobiographies out there but I wanted one that focused on both his relationship with his second wife Jean and their mutual interest in spiritualism. Russell Miller’s excellent book The Adventures of Arthur Conan Doyle, devotes a sizeable portion of his biography to Conan Doyle’s nascent belief in the afterlife to becoming its strongest advocate, often at the expense of his reputation.

Conan Doyle and the Mysterious World of Light by Matt Wingett is also excellent in detailing the early years of Conan Doyle’s spiritualism and his commitment to the belief.