Review Blog

Jun 01 2009

Newes from the dead by Mary Hooper

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Random House, 2008.
(Ages 12+) The story of Anne Green, a woman hanged in Oxford in 1650, for infanticide and then returning to life just as she was about to be dissected by the doctors from the Oxford College of Physicians, makes terrifying reading, as Hooper recreates her thoughts in her coffin, recalling her life up to that moment.
Anne Green was a scullery maid in the house of the Reade family, friends to the King, Charles 1. There she unfortunately attracted the attentions of the grandson, Geoffrey, who promised the earth to get her compliance. Finding herself pregnant, she sought help form the local cunning woman. When the child was born dead she was accused of infanticide and sentenced to hang.
Younger teen readers, particularly girls, will find this book of great interest. Not only does it go into some details about the various seductions imposed upon the girl by the grandson of the house, it also details the work she does in the house, and reinforces the giant gulf between the rich and poor in Cromwellian England.
The background described by Hooper is fascinatingly realistic, and the story of Anne Green, enthralling. I found myself getting frustrated, however, with the 'bodice ripper' style of the narrative, wanting to get to the nitty gritty of the girl's survival after such an horrendous event, not the machinations of the grandson and his eventual marriage to a wealthy young woman.The event and its aftermath are played by the author to garner the most excitement and this too I felt was too long. But the story is gripping. The detail of the hanging and its aftermath is sure to make all readers anti capital punishment. Fran Knight

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