Martha is a feisty and articulate young woman, the daughter of a wheelwright, living in a Herefordshire village in Elizabethan England. With no mother Martha’s life is spent running her father’s meagre household and helping out at the local school whilst longing to escape the confines and small-mindedness of a community driven by religious bigotry and poverty.
As she is able to read and is well-versed in herbal remedies she is suspected of being a witch. When a landslip occurs – opening up a huge chasm in the centre of the village – she is blamed for it and pursued remorselessly by the villagers.
But can her own wits and the love of local stablehand Jacob save her from a witch’s persecution and death…
A brilliant and accomplished novel that perfectly captures the febrile atmosphere of Elizabethan village life in an age when suspicion and superstition were rife.
Thank you to Boldwood Books for a digital review copy of this book – my thoughts are my own. Thank you to Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to join the Blog Tour.
This is the second book I’ve read recently set in Elizabethan England – the era when the Church of England had replaced Catholicism and the majority of people were unable to read. Many were willing to ‘snitch’ on neighbours to earn extra money to feed their families.
Martha, the main character is a headstrong intelligent young woman in an era when women were expected to be quiet and to stay at home. Her mother died when she was young, followed by her grandmother. Her father was a well respected Wheelwright who has turned to drink to help him forget the loss of his wife.
Martha has to deal with the village gossips, whilst trying to find enough food and fuel to survive. As the story evolves, she has a number of encounters with the villagers, some positive and others not. She has to use her inner strength to stay alive on a number of occasions.
The level of detail in the story is excellent, you really get to understand how hard life was. The saddest thing is seeing how a young woman with some basic knowledge of herbs and nursing skills can be suspected of being a witch. An interesting read and an impressive debut novel.
Ellie grew up in Herefordshire and now lives near the Malvern Hills. She’s taught in Hong Kong, London and Birmingham and published poetry and short fiction. Her novel THE WHEELWRIGHT’S DAUGHTER grew out of walks on Marcle Ridge where a 1571 landslip is still visible and marked on the map as The Wonder. The book tells the story of a world torn by division, where new beliefs jostle with tradition, where to be different can cost you your life. It introduces Martha Dynely, who refuses to be crushed, even when the horizon crumbles and buries her.
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