Sunday, July 22, 2012
Accidents of Providence by Stacia M. Brown
The year is 1649, the location London. Oliver Cromwell has defeated the King, Charles I, and religion now is the ruler of England. In this time and place, women are considered playthings of the Devil, and their wickedness must be controlled.
One late night, Rachel Lockyer is observed by her employer burying something. The employer goes back the next morning and discovers a dead newborn. Rachel is arrested and the book follows her case. If a woman has a child out of wedlock, she can be stripped and flogged. If she names the father, he will join her in punishment. If the child is dead, the assumption is that the mother has murdered her child to avoid punishment. This is the assumption in Rachel's case, as she has steadfastly denied being pregnant, even when asked directly. Her lover was a married man, and she is not willing to have him punished.
The book follows Rachel to Newgate Prison, a horrid place where prisoners must pay not to be attacked by guards and everyone is out for himself. The main investigator puts down the facts but something about the case bothers him. The trial is short and the outcome inevitable. As Rachel waits for her execution date, the story shifts to follow the man who was the father of her child, the political parties that want to use the case to further their complaints against the government by making Rachel a martyr, and Rachel's friends who try to save her.
Stacia Brown has written a historical fiction novel that outlines the brutish lives of this time, and the brutish government that served to punish any perceived misconduct. All blame went to the woman, and men could ruin them with little fear of punishment. This book is recommended for readers who enjoy historical fiction as it is a real opening through which the reader can experience life in this time and age.