How do I love Philippa Gregory? Let me count the ways. Like every millennial-esque person I started binging her books after seeing The Other Boleyn Girl movie… and as they always say the book IS better than the movie. I’ve read everything in her backlog, even the Wideacre series (which I enjoyed BTW).
I picked up Tidelands September 17th 2019 while journeying through Heathrow on my way home from the Retina Society meeting in London. It had been a long week of peopling for an introvert like me and it was my husband’s first trip to London so we had been busy. I was looking for a nice escape on the trip home, so 1640’s England it was. I devoured the book, finishing it on the flight. It ended up in my top ten reads of the year.
Just as an FYI – there are SPOILERS below so don’t read beyond if you’re not looking to ruin the book for yourself! I am writing this from memory because my reviews back then were like three sentences but there are still major plot points that are spoiled.
You’ve been WARNED!
What did I like…
Alinor is an excellent protagonist she is young an uneducated but strong and passionate. She is surrounded by suspicion as she is from a long line of “wise women” or in modern terms, witches. When she goes out one night to perform a ritual to escape from her husband she runs into a man. This man is a complete stranger to the town and in offering to help him, she of course, falls in love. Turns out that he is a priest. Yeah, whoopsie.
Alinor knew her way out of poverty and obscurity was with a man, which in a modern story would frustrate me, but for the time they’re living in, I found her strangely empowered. There is a lot of strife on the path she has chosen but she sees it as her only chance to escape the life that’s been written for her.
She is is tragically beautiful with such complex depth and devotion to her family and what is right.
Having this story take place in the remote salt marshes away from the hustle and bustle of London added to the intrigue. The intensity of the rumors and suspicion were ten fold in this small town where everyone knows everyone and where they go and what they do. Reminded me a lot in tone of The Crucible or the Scarlet Letter.
The news of the politics in the royal court during the times of Civil War certainly play in and add so much tenor to the story. This hits a high note as the story reaches its conclusion, if you can call it that.
The Story Pacing
I love minutiae in historical fiction. I want to feel like I’m living in the days they lived. This story was slow and measured and that helped not only fill in the historical gaps of the lives of regular people but also to build suspense. As you read, there is so much dread for Alinor and her future.
What frustrated me…
This one always frustrates me. I know Alinor is young so that explains some of it for me, young people do rush in head first and she was coming out of a terrible marriage. Secondly, as I said above, I think some of her love was actually directed at the idea of getting out of the life she had. The idea of a better life glamourizes lots of people into bad decisions.
I get it, the idea is to build the rumors and suspicion. Accuse or be accused. But I hate that regardless of the time point in history it’s always women against women. Can’t we ever get a glimmer anywhere of women, even secretly, being supportive of one another?
Lots of questions introduced with an aim for the next book… I suppose this is ok for a series but generally leaves me with a sour taste in my mouth. I got over it in this case because I really enjoyed the ride.
So now the sequel is here and I’m trilled to be starting off 2021 with it. What’s your first read of 2021?