Tidelands by Phillipa Gregory
Gregory has such a gift for bringing history to life in its fullness- the clothes, the food, the weather, the customs and culture of the time. She completely transports me with every book, and I love that about her stories. This time, she takes us to the low-lying tidelands of England in 1648 as Prince Charles is striving to emerge from his exile and overthrow Oliver Cromwell’s hold on the British government.
Into these quiet, poor low-lying communities comes a Catholic priest, disguised as an Anglican one. Alinor saves James the first night he arrives, and as he stays on as the local tutor, they fall in love. Alinor’s life is complicated as her husband left her, accusing her of witchcraft, so she can’t marry again while he’s still alive, but providing for two children on her own is exceedingly difficult. As the story progresses, tensions are heightened when Charles lodges nearby and stages his coup, and in this heightened atmosphere, cries of witch come after Alinor once more from people in her community. Can James save her?
A bit of a slower start than most of Gregory’s other novels, this one was worth staying the course because by the half-way point I couldn’t put it down. How Gregory can weave so much drama and so many tribulations for all of her characters into her stories without leaving the reader confused is always impressive to me. None of us live in a vacuum and in our lives we’re all juggling problems on more than one front too. This book was fabulous, and she closed on a cliffhanger- I can’t wait to see what’s in store for James and Alinor in the future.