Sunday, October 13, 2019
First sentence: The church was gray against a paler gray sky, the bell tower dark against the darker clouds.
Premise/plot: Tidelands is an historical novel set in England in 1648/1649. It is Philippa Gregory’s newest novel and the first in a new series. The premise is that the main heroine, Alinor, comes under suspicion by her neighbors for witchcraft. Why? She has been abandoned by her seafaring husband, (a husband that took not a care about preserving her reputation). She should be poor, desperately poor, starving, unable to support herself and her son, Rob, and daughter, Alys. Yet she is not. Somehow between selling herbs, attending births, fishing, etc. she is making enough money to survive—even saving back a little for her daughter’s dowry. Her son—who should have no future ahead of him because he is a nobody who comes from nothing—is first chosen to be a companion to the lord’s son and then is gifted an apprenticeship. Her neighbors have only one explanation: she is a witch descended from witches. She could never deserve such good fortune otherwise. The problem? Readers get the story from her perspective from start to finish and she simply is not a witch. So those readers hoping to find a witch-themed story will be disappointed. The explanation is much simpler. Bribery. Alinor meets a Catholic priest on his way to the lord’s house and she discovers the family’s religious and political leanings. She doesn’t ask for money, opportunities, etc. in exchange for her silence. But she’s given them and doesn’t refuse. Sadly she finds herself falling in love with this priest-traitor, “James Summer.” It does not go well...
My thoughts: I might have yelled at this book. Okay I did yell at some of the characters. I wasn’t surprised at the direction this one took—I could see what was coming almost from the start. But I also felt there were scenes—bits of dialogue—that were dropped in perhaps with an agenda. Unwanted pregnancies are nothing new. Perhaps one could eavesdrop on any decade in human history and find women talking about how they “need” or “want” or “must” get rid of the baby. How “it” will ruin their lives. But this one went out of its way perhaps to state that while she—the heroine—would never, ever, ever end the pregnancy, she would never ever judge another woman for choosing differently. Making the argument that women have the right to do whatever they want, whenever they want, with their body. No one has the right to force a woman to have a baby she doesn’t want. No one has the right to force a woman to end a pregnancy. Only one voice counts. There were several conversations that made me squirm a bit. Her daughter—who is also pregnant and unmarried (though betrothed) begs and pleads with her mother to have an abortion; she stands in judgment of her mother for having sex outside of marriage. The mother never once stands in judgement of her. The conversation that had me screaming however was with “James.” There are no words to describe him—words that I would want to go on record as saying or thinking.
I might be interested in the next book, but part of me hopes it doesn’t pick up where it left off in this family saga.
I was not disappointed at the lack of witchcraft.
© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews