This is my favourite time of year. Hot chocolate, big jumpers and as many delightfully creepy Gothic books as I can get my hands on. They seem to be in every shop at the moment and I am seriously struggling to restrain myself from buying them all. After all, there are only so many books one woman can realistically read.
I spotted this one on my Nana’s bookshelves actually and was drawn in by the simply stunning cover. It is gorgeous. I have no shame in admitting that I was sold by the cover alone and immediately asked my Nana if I could borrow it.
Happily, she said yes and I got to enjoy a story with is as rich and detailed as the cover that encases it.
This is the story of two women from very different situations who find their fates wound together and fraying. Fleetwood Shuttleworth is a wealthy young woman desperate to give her husband a longed-for heir. Alice Gray is a young midwife with the knowledge and skills to help Fleetwood – and her unborn child- survive her pregnancy. She is also on the fringes of a witchcraft trial that is sweeping through the area.
For these women, their partnership becomes a friendship and one that they both need if they are to survive these dangerous times. The tension in this novel is palpable as the threads of the narrative come together, tangling the two women in a net of lies, secrets and betrayal. I was hooked from the start as the novel sped towards its end. It was as if I, like Fleetwood, was galloping around Pendle Hill on a horse I couldn’t control.
What truly made this story for me however was the characters themselves. Fleetwood in particular was fiesty, irresponsible and everything a good gentlewoman shouldn’t be her. I loved her. Even when I was shaking my head at her, I loved her. She was messy and complicated in all the best ways, truly bringing this story to life. I would read countless other stories about her and her unsquashable spirit. More than that thought, I loved watching her friendship with Alice develop and being witness to the impact that this new relationship had on an isolated and quite naive young woman. It wasn’t a simple friendship but it was a caring one. An important one.
There was something like magic in this book about the Pendle witches. An enchantment perhaps, woven between the complex and clever threads of this story. I certainly got swept into it. Perhaps you will be too.