Catherine Love's Reviews > Five Wounds

Five Wounds by Katharine Edgar
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it was amazing

Five Wounds is a gripping read that grabs you from the word go. It is set against historical events I know very little about (the Pilgrimage of Grace) and in a part of England I’m unfamiliar with (Yorkshire) but I was completely swept away into this world as it was so brilliantly, convincingly realised.

The story begins with 15 year old Nan, not long home from the convent, being unwillingly betrothed to the much older and much married Lord Middleham. Having known relative freedom in the convent (which has closed as part of Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries) she is unhappy to be married off to a man with children older than her, especially when she meets Francis, Middleham’s son and heir, a far more attractive prospect. However she acquiesces to the betrothal to save her sister from having to marry in her stead, and to restore her position in the family honour – there is are hints about the terrible thing Nan has done in the past that led to her being sent away to the convent, but we do not find out why until part way through the book.

Lord Middleham is on the verge of supporting the uprising and joining the rebel cause under the banner of the Five Wounds of Christ - we are introduced to the intrigues behind the ill-fated revolt against the break with the Catholic church, the rebellion itself and the terrible penalties exacted for its failure. I knew little or nothing about these events, as most popular historical novels of the period tend to concentrate on Henry and his wives, but this well-researched book made them real and compelling. Cleverly, Ms. Edgar does not side entirely with the rebels – although we see this world through Nan’s eyes, through the depiction of such characters as the weak local priest (and his common law wife and children) and the venal and cowardly Abbot, she subtly draws a picture of the then-corruption of the Catholic church and leaves the reader to judge.
Nan becomes involved in the revolt while preparing for a marriage she does not want, and the character of Will Shepherdson, blacksmith, is introduced. When the plan to aid the rebels goes wrong and they are forced to flee into the woods, there is a sense of real danger. The story hurtles on apace and I could not put it down – but at the same time I didn’t want it to end. It is exciting, gripping and moving by turn - without giving anything away, there is a parting of the ways that is utterly heart breaking and brought me to tears.
To modern eyes, the power of religion, with Nan and her contemporaries’ absolute belief in Hell as a real place and God as an actual force can seem almost ridiculous, which together with the rigid sense of hierarchy in society can make characters behave in ways that seem irrational and self-destructive, but it is a tribute to Ms Edgar’s writing skill that it is utterly believable and you find yourself shouting at your kindle for the character not to make those decisions!
All the characters, even the bad guys (in particular a world-weary Duke of Norfolk) are fully fleshed out. Nan is a sympathetic and compelling heroine – intelligent, loving, unafraid to do what she sees as the right thing, yet all too human and led by her emotions as well as her head. No mere damsel in distress, she wields a mean bow and during the course of the novel learns to use a rapier too. I hope that we see more of Nan in many future works by Ms. Edgar.

I received a free e-copy of this book in return for an honest review.
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Reading Progress

January 22, 2015 – Shelved
January 22, 2015 – Shelved as: to-read
Started Reading
January 24, 2015 – Finished Reading
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