Title: The Familiars
Author: Stacey Halls
Pages: 432 Pages
IN 1612 IN LANCASTER, ENGLAND, THE HUNT FOR WITCHES IS RAMPANT…
BUT IN A TIME OF SUSPICION AND ACCUSATION, TO BE A WOMAN IS THE GREATEST RISK OF AL
1612 Pendle Hill
Young Fleetwood Shuttleworth is with child again. As the mistress of Gawthorpe Hall, she is anxious to provide her husband with an heir. But none of her previous pregnancies have come to term. Then she discovers a hidden letter from her physician that warns her husband that she will not survive another pregnancy.
Distraught over the frightening revelation, Fleetwood wanders the woods of Pendle Hill, where she meets a young local woman named Alice Gray. A midwife, Alice promises Fleetwood she can help her deliver a healthy baby. But soon Alice is drawn into the frenzied accusations of witchcraft sweeping the countryside. Even the woodland creatures, the “familiars,” are suspected of practicing the dark arts. Can Fleetwood trust that Alice is really who she says she is?
As the two women’s lives become intertwined, Fleetwood must risk everything to prove Alice’s innocence in order to save her own unborn child. The hunt for witches reaches fever pitch. Time is running out. The trials are about to begin. Both their lives are at stake. Only they know the truth. Only they can save each other.
Set against the Pendle Witch Trials of 1612, this rich and compelling novel draws its characters from historical figures as it explores the lives and rights of seventeenth-century women, ultimately raising the question: Is witch-hunting really just women-hunting?
The Familiars is a story about women. It is set in 1612, a time when women (and occasionally but rarely, men) were accused of witchcraft – something that is often associated with Salem in America equally happened in various parts of Britain. The Pendle Witch Trials provide the backdrop to this story but it is so much more than that.
The Familiars explores the role of women, the role of medicine and the role of friendship – all of which play a part in this evocative story of young Fleetwood Shuttleworth who has to come to terms with her impending motherhood, death, and the insidious role of the patriarchy.
I bloody loved it. I will admit that it is very rare that my reading takes me back further than Victorian times but I am so glad that I picked up this book. It was so evocative and all consuming. I found myself yelling at the book, feeling claustrophobic at times and had a visceral feeling of injustice. It truly is a fabulous story.
The Familiars by Stacey Halls is available now.
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