Mary and Susannah Hill are sister maids living in Oldbourne Manor in England 1610. Its a turbulent time for Catholics, and Oldbourne Manor is thoroughly Catholic. Or at least, it was. Susannah has discovered her sister has left Catholicism and may prove to be a risk to the manor. Will Mary turn the manor in? Will Susannah turn her sister in? The story of a trial between two sisters, and two faiths.
Amanda Clinton offered me a review copy of the book in return for a review of the book here on Epiphanies of Beauty. I am so glad for the opportunity as the book is a gem. What’s more, reading it prompted a little historical research, and even more conversation regarding the time period, Protestantism, and Catholicism. The book is well written, with a literary style and absent of any catchy, modern quips, flippant conversations. It is well written, page turning prose.
That said, I am a bit at odds about the veracity of the history portrayed in the book in regards to Catholics and the printed Bible. Catholics weren’t forbidden to own or read approved copies of sacred scripture. And yet, Susannah is afraid of Mary’s Bible (“she feared the book had dangerous alchemy already creeping into her skin and eyes. It could numb and change her mind, if given time..”), and at odds over reading the Bible at all (“how anyone could take the sacred word of God so lightly as to read it off the page just like any old poem…”). Our faith has never promoted superstition. Or ignorance. It doesn’t seem plausible to me that Susannah would tell Mary “It’s wrong to read the Holy Book!” After this, and not-quite believable deliberation of a priest, there is nothing else to object to in the novel. And all of this occurs within the first five chapters. Still, it is worth mentioning as the entire novel is based on the reformation and Protestant vs. Catholic England and there’s plenty of conflict in the truth that we don’t need to add any to it. Here is a simple enough explanation of the historical scenario. The previously mentioned scenes caused my 11 year old daughter a bit of a problem and she she almost stopped reading because of it. After the research and the conversation we both dug into the novel, free to thoroughly enjoy the remainder of the book.
And we did enjoy it (and are hoping for a sequel)! The many historical details are woven seamlessly throughout the novel. Blue ribbons, and dining halls. Roasting pits and traveling roads. Its all there, in a 17th century England that you won’t want to miss.
What You Need to Know
- Role Models/Authority Figures – Faithful priests, faithful lay Catholics, honorable men and women.
- Violence – Violence is very cleverly alluded to, but not actually ever seen within the novel.
- SexualContent – The hint of a crush between Susannah and Lord Trefethen.
- Consumerism – None.
- Drinking/Smoking/Drugs – None
- Religion – A bit of misrepresentation about Catholics and Bibles (see my review above), but afterwards very good.
- Other –
I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This did not affect my opinion of the book nor did it affect the content of my review.