I'll give you this...I'm not a huge historical fiction reader. But books like this could completely change my attitude. Ned Hayes takes some sparse facts from events that happened in 1300's Medieval England, connected a few dots and set them afire with this story. It really has something for everyone. In a poor outlying village, five young boys were forcibly trapped in a cottage and burned to death. The devastated parents of these boys put their dead children in a wagon and set out for London to get justice for the crimes, which they are SURE were committed by a witch or possibly a Jew. One of these parents is an ex-nun (Miriam) who ran from her former life with her newborn babe and settled in this village, posing as a man. She's no fool...she knows how women are treated and she wants a better life for her son. As they journey towards their destination, secrets are revealed...why Miriam ran in the first place, why the five boys were gathered in the cottage that fateful night, and who would have wanted them dead.
The story reveals so much about the beliefs and the lifestyle of peasants in this time period, and it is horrifying. In addition to the prejudices against a strong-willed woman (who must surely be a witch) and Jews, there is also starvation and disease to contend with. From these deplorable conditions rises Miriam, who is clever, educated and determined to do right by her son and survive. She is one of those characters you can't help but admire...she is badass. The writing was beautiful as well...reflecting a world seen through the eyes of a cultured and intelligent but repressed young woman.
The audio is most definitely the way to experience this story, which was narrated by Anne Day-Jones. Absolutely SUPERB narration, with her proper British accent but full of emotion and heart. This is one of those times when the audio makes the book greater than the sum of its parts. She is a new voice for me but one I won't soon forget.
I'd like to thank the author and TLC Book Tours for allowing me to listen to and review this book, which I may not have picked up otherwise. Definitely highly recommended.