Sunday, July 18, 2010

Newes from the Dead by Mary Hooper

Here's a teen read that is based on an actual historical event.  Newes from the Dead by Mary Hooper is about  Anne Green, a young servant living in the household of Sir Thomas Reade in 1650 England.  

Anne is a scullery maid, and has begun to spend time with the local blacksmith apprentice, John Taylor.  Anne's perfectly normal life takes a turn for the worst when Sir Thomas' grandson comes to stay on school breaks.  Anne catches his eye, and through persistence on his part, and ignorance on Anne's part, he soon begins an intimate relationship with her, promising Anne he will marry her and make her the mistress of the house.  

Anne doesn't feel too great about this situation, and is very uneasy.  She's had to break it off with John, and realizes he's the man she should have married.  Now, she finds herself pregnant, and too frightened to tell anyone but her mother.  After an unsuccessful attempt at taking some medicine to rid herself of the baby, she discovers that Master Geoffrey (the grandson) is engaged to marry a very wealthy young lady.  She tells him she's pregnant, in which he immediately denies it is his child and calls her a slut.  

With no where to go, and no one to turn to, Anne stays at her job, hiding her pregnancy.  She goes into labor months too early, and delivers her child in a privy by herself.  The baby is born dead.  Anne, in shock, hides the baby, intending to bury it later. 

Anne goes back to the house, is discovered, and the story comes out.  She's immediately accused of infanticide, and taken to jail.  After a trial, she's found guilty and sentenced to hang.  But what happens after she's hung is what this story is about.  Anne doesn't die.  She's in a coma, and awaits dissection from a team of doctors who have gathered to perform it mere hours after her hanging.

But wait--is that her eyelid twitching?  Will she awaken in time?  What happens?  This is a great historical fiction read that is aimed at teens.  It reads very quickly, and the fact that it's based on a true event is fascinating.   The author includes her notes on how she came to write the novel, and has a copy of the actual pamphlet about Anne Green from 1650 in the back of the book, so you can read what everyone read way back when.  

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