Welcome to today’s stop on the blog tour for The Wheelwright’s Daughter by Eleanor Porter. My thanks to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resourcesfor inviting me to take part in the tour and to Boldwood Books for my digital review copy via NetGalley. You can read my review below but do also check out the posts by my tour buddies, Bookish Jottingsand Joanna at Over The Rainbow Book Blog.
About the Book
Can she save herself from a witch’s fate?
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…
A brilliant and accomplished novel that perfectly captures the febrile atmosphere of Elizabethan village life in an age when suspicion and superstition were rife. Perfect for fans of Tracy Chevalier.
Format: ebook (310 pages) Publisher: Boldwood Books
Publication date: 21st April 2020 Genre: Historical fiction
Find The Wheelwright’s Daughter on Goodreads
For those who’ve read any amount of historical fiction set in the 16th century, it will be a familiar (no pun intended) story: an independent-minded, young woman educated beyond what might be expected with a knowledge of herbal remedies suspected of witchcraft by those who seek answers for events they cannot comprehend.
In this case, the seemingly incomprehensible event is a geological one, a landslip that destroys the village chapel. What clearer message can there be, some villagers wonder, that the Devil is in their midst? They are encouraged in this belief by the charismatic but sinister Father Paul who is bent on rooting out Catholics priests and prepared to use any pretext to gain favour and satisfy his own puritanical urges. As is often the case, there’s a misogynistic, not to mention rather un-priestlike, element to his fervour.
It has to be said that Martha doesn’t help herself initially, making light of the whispered rumours about her and continuing to roam the countryside alone at night, relying on the continued support of the daughter of the Lord of the Manor to protect her. The fact that Martha’s father is a drunkard prone to profane outbursts doesn’t help. Nor, unknown to Martha, do the circumstances of her mother’s death. As a friend warns her, “They are afraid…all these goings-on. Who’s to know what’s behind it all? It’s easier for them to decide it must be you.”
Along with a generous cast of secondary characters, there is some lovely detail about village life in the period, such as seasonal celebrations. The book’s conclusion invites the reader to use their own imagination to decide Martha’s future or, perhaps, to wait patiently for a possible sequel.
The Wheelwright’s Daughter is a skilfully crafted story of love, betrayal, superstition and fear in 16th century England.
In three words: Engaging, assured, immersive
Try something similar: Widdershins by Helen Steadman
About the Author
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 is her first novel.
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