Behind the Walls: A City Besieged by Nicola Pierce

Behind the Walls: A City Besieged

Written by Nicola Pierce

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The Lovereading4Kids comment

A significant slice of historic conflict is served with authenticity and sensitivity. The siege of Derry in 1689 is a fascinating subject matter, while battle, starvation and death makes for uncomfortable and at times difficult reading, the author also highlights love, trust, courage and hope. The background to the siege is explained, followed by the first few days and weeks which include the boredom of waiting, the gossip, the scaremongering, the day to day life of a city cut off from the world. The skirmishes and attack on the walls when they come, are not glorified, the confusion and fear of battle, the lack of food and water, feel very real. The author gives an identity and personality to some of the animals, which helps to bring an alternative focus to the siege and exposes the difficult decisions that had to be made by their owners. This is a book to encourage imaginations and shows with consideration and compassion how the past is connected to today. ~ Liz Robinson

A Piece of Passion from the editor Susan Houlden Nicola Pierce is skilled at breathing life into long-ago events and well-known historical figures, making it all seem real and immediate. Why was there a siege in Derry in 1689? Why do people burn Governor Lundy as an effigy every year? In this book we find out the answers and what it is like to be trapped in a siege – a horror that is very real for other people around the world today.
Nicola introduces us to such memorable characters as the Sherrard boys, Daniel and Robert, and also local hero Adam Murray. Through their eyes we see how the siege began as the thirteen apprentice boys close the gates; we feel the tension, the fear, the suspicion and hate. We see bombardment, people fighting, starving, injured, and diseased. The storytelling creates vivid pictures in your head. Horace, Daniel's beloved dog, is among those sacrificed for food in a scene typical of Nicola’s books – one which will tear at the heart. But the Sherrard boys and the Derry people refuse to give in. Eventually, ships are sent by the Protestant King William, and the city is saved. What now for the Sherrard boys? A call to arms goes up. King William and King James are heading into battle at the Boyne.

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Behind the Walls: A City Besieged by Nicola Pierce

Derry. 1689. The city's largely Protestant inhabitants resist all attempts by the Catholic King James's men to storm their gates. Outside, the Jacobite soldiers resolve to starve the populace into submission...

Inside the city, the Sherrard family are among those divided on whether to risk the lives of their loved ones or surrender the city. Tensions run high and the leaders argue. Mr Sherrard, the father of Robert and Daniel, starts to waver, angering his oldest son, Robert, who was among the 13 boys who closed the city gates in the face of the advancing Catholic army.

Meanwhile Daniel, the youngest Sherrard boy, also steps up to protect Derry. As the siege lengthens and the two sides clash in battle, the heavy price of defying the Catholic king becomes clear. People are starving, injured and diseased. Bombardment rains down on the city. Horace, Daniel's beloved dog, is among those sacrificed for food. But the Derry people remain defiant. There will be 'no surrender'. Eventually, ships, sent by the Protestant King William, laden with men and provisions, are spotted on the River Foyle. They save the city from starvation and the siege ends.

The Sherrard brothers celebrate the freeing of their city. But what now for these boys, haunted by their experiences?


'this fantastically written book will hook you from the start...this is historical fiction at its best.' The Guardian on City of Fate

About the Author

Nicola Pierce

Nicola Pierce lives in the town of Drogheda in Ireland. Following her many successful ghostwritten books for adults, Nicola published her first book for children, Spirit of the Titanic. The book received rave reviews, and ran to five printings within its first twelve months. City of Fate is her second book for children and transports the reader deep into the Russian city of Stalingrad during World War II.

Q+A for Nicola Pierce

Q: Nicola, when did you first start writing?

From the very beginning I was a big reader and somehow writing just seemed to be wrapped up with my love of reading. I have diaries that I kept when I was a young child; they were as precious to me as my Enid Blyton collection.

Q: You write historical fiction novels – were you really into history when you were in school?

Q: Where did the idea for Behind the Walls come from?

I was asked to write a novel about the Battle of the Boyne in1690. During my research I discovered that a lot of the soldiers at the battle had fought at the siege of Derry in 1689 and so I felt that I should at least give it a mention. However, when I read about the siege it was such an exciting and dramatic story that I immediately knew it deserved an entire book to itself.

Honestly, the most interesting time period to research is whatever I’m in the middle of researching. I set out to discover as much as I can about the event and become hugely absorbed in that particular period – thanks to some wonderful documentaries on Youtube and the books that I find in my library and bookshop.

Q: How do you write historical fiction – research first and then write, or research as you go along?

Q: Where and when do you write?

I am not a disciplined writer. I aim to write 2,000 words a day and I try various ways and means of achieving this. I handwrite my novels so that means when I get tired of working in the house I can go out to a café and try working there. There are the days of glory when I reach 2,000 words before midday but these are usually followed by long, dark days when no matter how many times I count what I’ve written my total doesn’t add up to even half of what it should be.

Q: What was your favourite book when you were a teenager?

In my teens I re-read favourite books like “Little Women”, “Pride and Prejudice” and “Children of the Oregon Trail”. I also loved “To Kill A Mockingbird” and “Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry”. I also spent my teens falling in love with most of the characters in books like “The Outsiders” and “Rumblefish”.

Q: Did you think that one day you'd write a novel that would actually be published?

Q: What advice can you give would-be children's authors in getting published?

This is a tough one as I realise how lucky I was and how difficult it is to get published today. What I can add to the reams of advice out there except to say try not be led by fashion. Ignore that best-selling fantasy book and write your own story honestly and from the heart. I’ve had some people smirk at me as they ask how long young readers will want to read historical fiction. Who knows the answer to such a question? I firmly believe there is a reader for every story.

Q: Favourite place in the world and why?

Two places: San Francisco and Portland, Oregon in America. Okay, so I haven’t yet been to either of them but that is going to change in May of this year. I can hardly believe that I am finally going to America for what I hope is just my first visit. I have read American writers for years and years and am very much looking forward to visiting the City Light’s Bookstore in San Francisco and Powell’s Bookstore in Oregon. I am also extremely excited to be anywhere near the possible destination of ‘Children of the Oregon Trail’.

Lordy, what a question! I would have liked to have seen Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix in Woodstock in 1969 because they are two of my favourite singers/musicians. I would have liked to visit Paris/Berlin in the 1920/30s when they were crammed full of writers, artists and musicians before Hitler obliterated everything. I would also have liked to have been a cowboy on the great plains in America after the end of the Civil War and before Abraham Lincoln was murdered.

By far my number one passion has always been reading. I do it every day and can do anywhere. And I spend a small fortune on this particular hobby.

I love listening to music – loud, really loud! I’ve already mentioned Hendrix and Joplin. As I’m typing this I’m listening to a double album of The Temptations.

10 things you didn't know about Nicola Pierce

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Book Info


368 pages
Interest Age: From 10 years


Nicola Pierce
More books by Nicola Pierce


O'Brien Press Ltd

Publication date

2nd March 2015




Publisher Profile

O'Brien Press Ltd is an imprint of O'Brien


The O'Brien Press is Ireland's leading general publisher of both adult and children's books. Our list covers a huge range, including biography, humour, photography, history, art, fiction, politics, cookery, sport, music, memoir, true crime and travel and we are constantly expanding into new and exciting areas.

Publisher's Website

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