Tidelands by Philippa Gregory
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
The blurb: England 1648. A dangerous time for a woman to be different . . .
Midsummer’s Eve, 1648, and England is in the grip of civil war between renegade King and rebellious Parliament. The struggle reaches every corner of the kingdom, even to the remote Tidelands – the marshy landscape of the south coast.
Alinor, a descendant of wise women, crushed by 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 neighbours. 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.
My review: Tidelands is the first book in a new series, The Fairmile. As Philippa Gregory is one of my favourite authors, I grabbed the audiobook when I saw it on special.
At first, I found the book to be quite dark and depressing and, in all honesty, I thought this might be the first book by this author that I would be marking as “unfinished” or giving just one star to in a review.
However, I’m glad I kept going as the dark and depressing feel was actually part of the storyline. It seriously showed how bad the main character’s life was. Remembering the book is set in 1648 when life would have been difficult for the poor and underprivileged, and if you were a woman, if was even worse so I gulped and rethought any fanciful wish to live in the period.
Once the setting was truly set and Alinor’s storyline became clear, I was captivated and could hardly wait to continue reading (or in my case, listening) at every opportunity.
Yes, there is a political thread, but it is not overbearing. The politics are required to set the mood, but the characters actions, reactions, and dire need are always the main focus of the book. Alinor, Alys and Rob are wonderful characters and we are taken on a journey where a single decision can change the course of all their lives. And they all make decisions that effect all of them, without the knowledge of other decisions being made around them.
The story is full of love, romance, desperation, rumours, suspicion, secrets, fear, judgement, and superstition. The emotions twist and turn along the way for all of them, for different reasons. But they all want one thing in the end, to feel secure and happy.
Philippa Gregory did it again. She wrote a book that is captivating, meaningful and paints a true picture of what it would have been like living in 1648. I loved this book.