Tidelands, by Philippa Gregory
Series: The Fairmile #1
Published by Simon & Schuster UK, 20th February 2020
Genres: Historical fiction, romance
England 1648. A dangerous time for a woman to be different.
Alinor is a healer and a midwife, from a long line of wise women. On midsummer’s eve, she waits in the churchyard for the ghost of her husband, hoping to find out if he is dead or has simply abandoned her and their children. Instead, she meets James. A papist and a royalist, at a time when both could mean a death sentence, James appeals to Alinor to lead him across the treacherous marshes and hide him until the next day.
Alinor helps this mysterious stranger and delivers him to the safe house. Little does she know how much this night-time encounter will affect her life and those of her children. In these dark and dangerous times, it is not advisable to stand out. Either through unexplained good fortune or seemingly mysterious gifts.
Philippa Gregory is one of my all-time favourite authors. Although she usually focuses on “important” women in history, such as the Tudor Queens, I love her writing, whatever the subject. I thought the decision to focus on an “ordinary” woman and her life during this time was very interesting.
This seems to me to be the element that brings an historical woman out of obscurity: if we can understand that she sees herself as significant – even if she is ignored by history.
As always, Philippa Gregory paints an evocative picture and the description of the Tidelands was fantastic. I really felt like I could see the treacherous marshes, the unpredictable tides and the rushing river.
The atmosphere was also really palpable. The characters’ constant allusions to witchcraft, despite Alinor’s determined denials of any mystical powers, created a real tension throughout the story. There is a sense that everything will inevitably come to a bad end, but the constant uncertainty was very convincing. I could imagine what it might have been like for a woman in those times. When any slight perceived infraction could be terribly costly.
I really enjoyed this new direction of historical fiction from Philippa Gregory, although it was a little slow going to start with. I am looking forward to reading the rest of the series and seeing how Alinor’s story progresses.
My rating: 4/5