I have only read one Philippa Gregory novel and that was ages ago. I felt like I was long overdue for one of her books. When I saw that this was her latest book I was eager to check it out.
I thought that it sounded like an interesting setting and kind of far removed from what she is most well known for—royal courts.
I decided to pick it up on Audible instead of actually picking up a hard copy and I was glad I did because the narrator did a great job and made it very enjoyable to listen it, but that said I wasn’t sure that I loved the book itself.
Midsummer’s Eve, 1648, England is in the grip of a civil war between renegade king and rebellious parliament. The struggle reaches every corner of the kingdom, even the remote tidelands —the marshy landscape of the south coast.
Alinor, a descendant of wisewomen, trapped in poverty and superstition, waits in the graveyard under the full moon for a ghost who will declare her free from her abusive husband. Instead, she meets James, a young man on the run, and shows him the secret ways across the treacherous marsh, not knowing that she is leading disaster into the heart of her life.
Suspected of possessing dark secrets in superstitious times, Alinor’s ambition and determination mark her out from her neighbors. This is the time of witch mania, and Alinor, a woman without a husband, skilled with herbs, suddenly enriched, arouses envy in her rivals and fear among the villagers, who are ready to take lethal action into their own hands.
It is dangerous for a woman to be different. (Summary from Goodreads)
As I mentioned the narrator was great but the story just lacked something for me but yet I was oddly interested in seeing what happens in the future for Alinor and Alice, her daughter. The book started a little slow for me, there was a lot of detail about day to day life in the tidelands and it just came across as bland rather than interesting. At first it was interesting but then it just became mundane the more it was talked about.
I also felt like we were reminded a little too often about how poor Alinor was and how so many people were suspicious of her without too much really happening until the last quarter of the book. I also didn’t care for James even in the beginning. I always felt distrustful of him even from the beginning and I struggled to like him at all especially by the end. I also felt like their relationship was too much of a reach. There was so much emphasis on her being so poor and James being so high above her and it just felt like too much of a reach in my opinion.
Don’t even get me started on Alice. She was a holy terror and I couldn’t stand her. She just wasn’t a nice person and I thought she treated her mother horribly. Even though there were a number of things I didn’t like about this book and things that just didn’t work, I still kept listening and felt invested enough to see if through until the end. And I feel oddly compelled to read the next book when it comes out.
I mean don’t get me wrong Gregoy is a great writer and she knows her history! I wouldn’t be discouraged from reading any of her other novels but I don’t know that this was a book I would start with. It wasn’t terrible but it wasn’t my favorite either.