I owe you the tale of a gruesome read, don't I? Well, it's not due out until April, but you don't mind, right?
Anne Green wakes up in the dark. She can't move. She can't see and she can't cry out. Her last memory is that of being hanged for a crime she did not commit. As she relives the events that led to her execution, there are people gathering around her motionless body. These people aren't her loving family assembled for her funeral, but doctors and students preparing to dissect her for science...The best part? It's based on true events from 1650.
"Cromwell, they say, is short and stocky, with warts over his face, and I know I should be very frightened if I came face to face with him. But not as frightened as I am now" p 11.*
Mary Hooper's written a lot of books, but Newes From the Dead happens to be my first of hers. I've been meaning to read At the Sign of the Sugared Plum for over a year, as I've got a thing about books depicting plague events, but well, you know how that goes.
Ok, the gruesome bits: Mostly having to do with the detail in which they go into about the hanging - that her brothers rushed forward to her dangling, struggling body to pull on her legs in order to hasten her death and lessen her pain. There was the guy who brutally struck her in her chest with the butt of a gun to assure her death. And then there's the doctors talking about her potential dissection. And, if you haven't caught on by now, SHE LIVED. Like, no kidding. Real events. There was a pamphlet. The prison was pretty awful, too. It's definitely enough to make you glad you can't travel in time.
The story is told largely in the alternating viewpoints of Anne and Robert, the medical student who first sees her twitch. Anne seems very much a simple country maid, naive and uneducated. Robert is clever, but crippled by a speech impediment. It's enjoyable, quick and illuminating. The most irritating fact, as explained in the author note, is that with infanticide the mother was guilty until proven innocent. And since women had no voice themselves, unless the mother had wealthy relatives, she was most likely poor and doomed. Have I mentioned that the prison was frightfully disgusting yet? It was. Seriously, don't get thrown in jail in the 1600s. Anne on her imprisonment:
"Surely if she was a witch the devil would have seen to it that she had more comfortable surroundings?" p 74.*
I feel it necessary to point out that this is the second recent book to feature the wrongful accusation of infanticide of a stillborn baby. A Swift Pure Cry is the other. Both set in the UK. Both historical. Dude, the 1980's ARE SO historical.
Oh, and by the way? I still hate Puritans.
*Page numbers refer to the Advanced Reader's Edition. Pages and quotes may change.