I enjoyed the book, though it is not for the weak stomached or heavy hearted. The novel illustrates the will of the human spirit and the want of life when there is nothing else to want. The story truly brings you back the 17th century in diction but still remains a simple and light read.
A quick read about a horrible time. It draws you in without giving you too many horrid details.
You can read my complete review here
Once again, an author has managed to blunderingly insert a modern mindset into a historical period, and has created a heroine who is a priceless superwoman as well. This book, based very loosely on real events in the 17th century, is a poorly veiled attempt at trumpeting the author's viewpoints and opinions. The ending is nothing more than the author showing off her knowledge of Islamic customs, while the writing it self leaves a lot to be desired. It is as thick and as uplifting as mud.
This book includes a heroine who is saintly, intellectually brilliant (she learns to read in a couple of months, learns Latin too, and becomes well versed in herbalism - I kept waiting for her to invent the airplane and penicillin) and remarkably resilient in the face of a village-wide plague. She nurses tirelessly, she overcomes personal tragedy, she has insight into the motivations and actions of people that Sigmund Freud would envy, she can mine lead and she can ride a highly spirited horse at a gallop sans saddle. All in all - absolutely unbelievable, particularly for the time period and the social status of the main character.
Add to that a feminist witch, abortion, women who don men's clothing and successfully mine lead in an afternoon though they have never done such work in their lives before, children's rights, alternative medicine, and wicked men who restrict and make miserable their wives and all other women within their sphere, this book is a nauseating airing of modern politically correct thought, and has nothing whatsoever to do with the mindset of the historical era it supposedly portrays. The smear campaign done on the character of the village minister (based on a real person) alone is such an act of libel that I'm surprised the real man's descendents haven't tried to sue Ms. Brooks. She has taken a selfless act on the part of a real person and his wife (who lost her life as a result of their determination to stay in the Plague Village rather than fleeing at the first sign of the plague) and turned it into a perverse attempt on the part of an evil man to punish his wife for having had a premarital affair and abortion.
The descriptions of horseback riding are absurd, and Ms. Brooks could have gotten more accurate information by speaking for fifteen minutes to any child in a pony club. Her grasp on herbalism is equally ridiculous - a few hours with any of hundreds of well-researched books on the subject would have helped her avoid a number of ridiculous gaffes.
And the ending, where the main character travels, on her own, with a newborn baby in tow, via ship, unmolested, to North Africa where she then enters into a platonic marriage with a great Muslim physician (who just happens to be conveniently right there) and becomes his assistant, helping Muslim women and living in his harem - well, it's the stuff of cruddy bodice rippers, and so strains the already insulted intelligence of the reader that high blood pressure is the result. How Ms Brooks thinks that anyone with any knowledge or capacity for critical thought would swallow this absurdity is beyond me. She seems to forget that her protagonist lives in a time where a woman would not have been permitted to travel alone or given passage on a ship by any captain at any price, and would most likely have been killed or sold into slavery had she actually managed to find her way to North Africa and walk around the streets in her English clothing.
This book is an insult to the real people of the Plague Village and their descendents. It is chock full of repulsive images that are obviously added simply for shock value, and go far beyond any realistic portrayal of plague symptoms or historical fact.