4 April 2019
My thanks to the publishers for my copy of this book
A woman seeks refuge for herself and her daughter in the household of a childhood friend.
The friend, Alice Kytler, gives her former companion a new name, Petronelle, a job as a servant, and warns her to hide their old connection.
Before long Petronelle comes to understand that in the city pride, greed and envy are as dangerous as the wolves that prowl the savage countryside. And she realizes that Alice's household is no place of safety.
Once again, Petronelle decides to flee. But this time she confronts forces greater than she could ever have imagined and she finds herself fighting for more than her freedom,
Inspired by the true story of the Kilkenny Witches, which took place in Ireland in the early 1300s, we find ourselves in the company of Dame Alice Kytler, a rich and independent woman, who with reluctant christian charity takes in her childhood friend with her young daughter. Reluctant to have the connection between them known, Alice renames her friend, Petronelle and the daughter, Basilia and allows them to work for her as servants.
But all is not well in the Kytler household, Alice is viewed with mistrust by some and open adoration by others. Her vast wealth, accumulated over the years from her role as a money lender, along with her unchristian like views often placed her in noisy opposition with the Catholic church. Richard de Ledrede, Bishop of Ossory, was one such adversary who, keen to be rid of Alice, and greedy for her wealth, is determined to bring her down.
Her Kind has an authentic voice which reminds us that this was how it once played out, women didn't get much of a chance to defend themselves against accusations of witchcraft, and whilst this was the first known witchcraft event to be recorded in Ireland, the sad persecution would only gain momentum in the coming centuries. Carefully blending fact with fiction a story emerges of women living together in one household who are judged and victimised with no evidence of wrongdoing. However, Alice is capricious by nature, and her manipulation of those in her household only lends credence to an accusation of witchcraft and heresy.
Throughout the story I felt as if I was immersed in the culture of the time with the uneasy and blatant disregard for truth and justice. The author writes well bringing to life the uneasiness of a medieval town filled with suspicion and jealousy and which highlights the plight of medieval women in a thought-provoking and meaningful way.
Niamh Boyce was the 2012 Hennessy XO New Irish Writer of the Year, her debut novel The Herbalist won Newcomer of the Year at the Irish Book Awards 2013, and was long listed for an IMPAC Award. Her short stories have been anthologized in The Long Gaze Back and The Hennessy Anthology.