Both novels make great use of history, but in slightly different ways. In novels by Penelope Lively (who studied History at Oxford) history seems to appear in layers over the landscape; here and there the new layers are thin so that the older layers seep through; in this, her first novel, the veneer of modernity is thin even with the inhabitants of the village. Once the chalice disappears, the deeper layers of superstition are visible. Mair, who as Evadne the district nurse identifies is in the pre-adolescent stage of dreaminess and empathy with the place, is able to imagine herself into the position both of the villagers and of Goacher, and is the key to putting things to rights.
In King of Shadows the history of place is significant, but also the emotional state of Shakespeare, mourning the death of his son Hamnet, and Nathan, mourning the death of his father. While reading this novel, which makes wonderful use of Shakespeare's words, both A Midsummer Night's Dream and Sonnet 116, "Let me not to the marriage of true minds/ Admit impediments...", I also was reminded of the opening lines of L. P. Hartley's The Go-Between: "The past is foreign country; they do things differently there". In Lively's work, the past is not foreign; it co-exists with the present, and the future, and this palimpsest approach is what makes her novels so rich and fascinating. I would recommend both these novels for confident readers of 9+.