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In the Margins

Gail Holmes

We are the spaces between the words.

Inspired by a real person, In the Margins is the story of spirited book-collector, Frances Wolfreston—the woman who uniquely preserved the earliest part of Shakespeare’s legacy.  
England, 1647. As civil war gives way to an uneasy peace and Puritanism becomes the letter of the law, Frances Wolfreston, a rector's wife, is charged with enforcing religious compliance by informing on her parishioners. This awful task triggers memories of her mother, Alice, who inspired Frances’s love of books and secretly practised Catholicism at great risk. Conflicted, she doesn’t report a reclusive and mysterious midwife to delay her going to gaol.
As Frances takes increasingly bold steps to help the women and children of the parish, she attracts the ire of a patron of the church who questions why Frances collects books that she charges are entertainment. When her mother is gaoled for religious crimes, the secrets Frances hides from her husband begin to surface, and she is faced with an impossible choice: comply with the strict dictates of the new laws, or risk everything to free the women she cares for.  
In this tender and powerful work of imagination, the life of a remarkable woman who wrote and lived in the margins in a time where women's voices went unheard is restored to history. Beautifully written and deeply moving, In the Margins is a testament to the way literature can illuminate our inner lives and set us free when the world around us is covered in darkness.

About the Author

Gail Holmes Gail Holmes grew up in Scotland, the youngest of seven children and the only girl. She graduated from the University of Strathclyde with a BSc (Hons) in Civil Engineering and a Master of Business Administration. She moved to London to join an international energy company and had an international career there for twenty-three years as a project manager and commercial manager. During this time Gail also married and had five children. She moved to Australia in 2013. Her creative writing journey began when she was a working mum with very young children in Shanghai, China. Unable to get back to sleep one night, Gail started writing short stories about living in Shanghai. As this writing habit continued to grow, she attended short courses at the City College of Literature in London and then later studied the Melbourne University’s Master of Creative Writing, Editing and Publishing programme, graduating in 2021. In the Margins is her first novel.



The significance of this novel goes beyond Holmes’s beautiful narrative voice and illuminates a hero known to us solely because the real Frances Wolfreston signed her name in each of her books. In an era marked by low female literacy rates and limited women’s ownership rights, this highlights the immense value Wolfreston placed on her books and underscores our progress since then. This deeply moving debut will appeal to fans of Pip Williams’ The Bookbinder of Jericho and Kayte Nunn’s The Silk House.’ Books+Publishing


‘A riveting novel of women's solidarity and Shakespeare amidst the societal limitations of Puritan England. Holmes rekindles the intriguing story of Frances Wolfreston in this accomplished debut.’ –Eleanor Limprecht, author of The Coast and The Passengers


‘In lyrical, powerful prose, Gail Holmes lures us into the repressive world of seventeenth-century England, bringing it to life through the eyes of Frances Wolfreston, rector’s wife, keeper of secrets, collector of books and careful observer.  Beautifully written, In the Margins is a captivating novel: vivid, wise and moving.’ –Suzanne Leal, author of The Watchful Wife and The Deceptions


‘Sparkling prose and tender clarity make the journey in Frances ‘Frannie’ Wolfreston’s shoes a sheer delight. Gail Holmes’s potent but poignant nod to the pursuit of male approval, urges us to remember that solidarity between women is finespun but resilient. And its lustrous threads carry the necessary strength to weave HIStory with HERS.’ –Sally Colin-James, author of One Illumined Thread




Pub Date
September 2024


Commonwealth excluding Canada

Historical Fiction

Reclaimed history. Puritan England. Book collecting.