Fleetwood Shuttleworth, Lady of Gawthorpe Hall, is pregnant for the fourth time at the age of seventeen and her husband is anxious for an heir. After finding a letter not intended for her eyes, Fleetwood discovers she will not survive another pregnancy.
By chance she crosses paths with Alice Gray, an elusive midwife, who promises to help her give birth to a baby, at long last. But Alice soon stands accused of witchcraft and Fleetwood must risk everything to try and help her.
Stacy Halls has researched thoroughly for this turbulent era, allowing her to create a realistic portrait of the lives and livelihood of both affluent landowners and impoverished tenants in 1612 Lancashire.
Most potently, Halls captures the powerlessness and terror of being a woman in this time. Alice faces a suspicion for her knowledge of medicine and the human body, while Fleetwood is subject to the power of men who seek to control her and her body, often at the risk of her life.
There is a gothic sensibility to the writing style. It permeates the story creating a sense of mystery intended to leave the reader hungry for more. This coupled with Halls’s fantastic pacing results in an intricate and gripping work of historical fiction, one of my favourites this year!
Reviewed by Kelsey Ward.