Richard and Judy Introduce Tidelands by Philippa Gregory

Richard and Judy Introduce Tidelands by Philippa Gregory

Judy’s Review

Its midsummer’s eve, 1648. England is gripped by civil war between its Catholic king and rebellious, Puritan parliament. In the remote Tidelands, the marshy landscape of the south coast, Alinor, a superstitious young peasant woman, waits under a full moon in the village graveyard for a ghost who, according to legend, will confirm she is truly free of her abusive husband, lost at sea.

Instead she meets James, a young Catholic priest on the run from the Protestant Oliver Cromwell. Alinor feels sorry for him and helps him to hide; this generous gesture seals her fate: she is propelled directly into grave danger.

Alinor, a mother of two children, crushed by grinding poverty, is the descendant of so-called ‘wise women’. A midwife skilled in the knowledge of medicinal herbs, she is already vulnerable in a land obsessed with witch-mania.

Richard’s Review

Alinor’s help for James, to whom she is intensely attracted, is rewarded by his patron, the local lord of the manor, a secret Catholic Royalist. In gratitude her son is taken into comfortable service in the manor and given an education. Sir William also provides Alinor with a little money to ease her gruelling life. Inevitably her village neighbours become envious and suspicious. Why are the lives and Alinor, her son and 13-year-old daughter, suddenly so improved?

And so the community invokes the curse hurled at all ‘wise women’ in the 17th century, and accuse her of being a witch.

Gregory’s immensely successful historical novels usually tell of rich, ambitious noblewomen, such as The Other Boleyn Girl. Tidelands is a new and fascinating insight into the opposing stories of those pampered women: lives lived in dire poverty in those cruel and superstitious times.

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