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From the back of the book...
"It is 1650 and a baby lies dead before it even drew breath. A young servant girl, terrified and alone, is accused of its murder and sent to the gallows. Protesting her innocence in the chill air of a December morning, Anne Green is hanged. Moments later her lifeless body is lifted down from the scaffold and carried to the College of Physicians for brutal dissection.
But as Anne's corpse lies on the table and the doctors assemble, a strange rattle is heard in her throat.
Could she still be alive?"
This historical novel is based on a true story, which made it all the more interesting for me. While Newes from the Dead is actually a book aimed at teenagers/young adults, I wouldn't let that put older readers off. After all, it's been a long time since I was a teenager, but I found this to be a great read.
The story starts with Anne's thoughts as she wakes to a senseless darkness where she begins to wonder if she's in Purgatory or, God forbid, buried alive! Here she begins to tell us of awful things that have led her there, of her life at the big house where she worked and how she came to be sent to the gallows to hang. The next chapter is set in a room in Oxford, where a corpse lays resting, waiting to be dissected. Then the following chapter takes us back to Anne and her story. While the book bats back and forth between Anne telling us her story and the room in Oxford, it has been done in a way that is actually easy to follow.
I loved the way this book was written. While Anne was telling me her story, I could almost hear that frightened girl from the 17th century speaking the words.
We meet a number of characters and get to know them, some of whom are quite like-able, while others are not so much! We meet Robert, a scholar of New College in Oxford, who takes quite an interest in the corpse laid before him, wondering, almost worrying about her. We learn of Master Geoffrey and his unwanted advances, and of his grandfather Sir Thomas who will go to any length to protect his family.
This book is descriptive and imaginative, and I feel that you learn about what life was like back then (it was certainly nowhere as easy at life is for us these days). Mary Hooper has taken an event in history and made it into an interesting story in which we get to know the fateful Anne Green.
At the end of the book in a chapter titled "Author's Notes", Mary Hooper tells us how she came across the story of Anne Green and what was fact in the story and what she's made-up from imagination and research. This, again, adds to the whole story.
I hadn't noticed that this was a book for teenagers/young adults when I first spotted it in a book shop, but having read the back of the book I didn't care whether it was aimed at me or not. I simply had to read it! I'm glad to have read this book and I think it would make an interesting read for anyone from teenagers in school to the blissfully retired. I would have enjoyed reading this in school (get it on the syllabus, if it's not already there!) and I certainly enjoyed reading it now as I'm touching 30.
Available in hardback, paperback and audio CD format.
Please note: This review is also posted on my website and on GoodReads.