Tuesday 1 August 2023

๐ŸŽง Featured Book of the Month ~ The Witching Tide by Margaret Meyer

6 July 2023

Audible 9 hrs and 36 minutes

East Anglia, 1645. Martha Hallybread, a midwife, healer and servant, has lived peacefully for more than four decades in her beloved village of Cleftwater. She has not spoken a word in years.

One bright morning, Martha becomes a silent witness to a witch hunt, led by sinister new arrival Silas Makepeace. As a trusted member of the community, she is enlisted to search the bodies of the accused women for evidence. But whilst she wants to help her friends, she also harbours a dark secret that must never be revealed.

In desperation, Martha revives a poppet, a wax witching doll that she inherited from her mother, in the hope that it will bring protection. But the poppet's true powers are unknowable, the tide is turning, and time is running out.

๐ŸŽง My Review...

The seventeenth century was a dangerous time to be a woman, especially if you were poor and without a voice to stand up for yourself. Into the melting pot of witch frenzy the fictional East Anglian village of Cleftwater is plunged into disarray when the witch-finder Silas Makepeace comes a-calling. Determined to clear this once peaceful backwater of a coven of witches, Silas enlists the help of Martha Hallybread, a local woman who the village rely upon as their nurse, midwife and healer. Martha, terrified for the women who have been wrongly accused, is determined to use the skills she has inherited to help those who are unable to help themselves, however, fate has a nasty way of intervening.

Based around the true story of the East Anglian witch trials, which took place between 1645-47, this story emphasises the way in which local communities were left both divided and shattered, not only by the thought of having so many witches in one place, but also in families who were ripped apart by bigotry and hatred. As this wonderfully detailed story shows no-one was immune, particularly those innocent women who were held responsible for all the wrongdoings that befell a village, be it flood, famine, pestilence or death, witches were seen to be responsible and had to be eliminated.

I listened to the Audible version of this book and the narrator, Amanda Raison, did an excellent job of bringing all the characters to life, especially Martha whose silent voice is strong and vibrant and  also the creeping menace of the witch finders whose hateful bigotry made my blood boil. Fear and superstition is cleverly controlled and the hateful and fervent righteousness of the male villagers shows just how vulnerable were the accused women who had no means of defence.

I have long held a fascination for stories of those women who were so wrongly persecuted during the dangerous witch trials of the seventeenth century and The Witching Tide certainly didn't disappoint. It is beautifully written, mesmerising in detail and with a poetic lyricism which never detracts from the absolute power of the story and so, for that reason, I have no hesitation in making The Witching Tide my Featured Book of the Month for August.

About the Author

Margaret Meyer was born in Canada, grew up in New Zealand and now lives in Norwich, England. She was a publisher and literature developer before retraining as a mental health therapist, working in schools, prisons and addiction recovery centres as well as in private practice. Her writing includes essays, flash fiction and short stories, and in 2020 she completed an MA in Creative Writing from the University of East Anglia. The Witching Tide, her first novel, was inspired by the events of the East Anglian witch hunt of 1645-7 and is dedicated to the more than 100 innocent women who lost their lives.

Twitter @Margaret_Meyer #TheWitchingTide

@Phoenix_Bks @orionbooks

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