Wednesday 22 April 2020

Book Review ~ The Wheelwright's Daughter by Eleanor Porter

Boldwood Books
21 April  2020

My thanks to the publishers for my ecopy of this book

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 stable hand Jacob save her from a witch's persecution and death...

What did I think about it..

Martha Dynely is the eponymous Wheelwright's daughter living in a small Herefordshire village in the middle years of the reign of Queen Elizabeth 1. Martha is feisty and spiky, given to bouts of unpredictability, speaks her mind with a cutting edge and doesn't suffer fools, and because of this she is treated with suspicion, not just by the villagers, but also by the minister who suspects evil around every corner and finds more than enough devilment in Martha to cause him sleepless nights.

Martha's knowledge of herb lore and her ability to read and write sets her apart from the rest of the village and when some unusual things start to happen, the mistrust which has always festered under the surface threatens to destroy Martha. The characters who inhabit the village below Marcle Ridge have their own petty jealousies, their peevishness towards others, and an ingrained fear of authority casts a shadow which is difficult to expunge, and even their esteemed lord in his manor is not without his own dangerous secrets.

This fascinating story, written with an interesting turn of phrase, gives an authenticity to Martha's words and brings a sense of darkness to this shadowy corner of Elizabethan England. Brooding with an underlying menace and as with all stories which look at the persecution of women for witchcraft, The Wheelwright's Daughter gives us an imagined glimpse into our dark and dangerous past.

Eleanor Porter has lectured at Universities in England and Hong Kong and her poetry and short fiction has been published in magazines. The Wheelwright's Daughter, her historical fiction debut is set in Elizabethan England.

Twitter @elporterauthor #TheWheelwrightsDaughter


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