Louise Beilby's Reviews > Five Wounds

Five Wounds by Katharine Edgar
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it was amazing

I knew little about the Pilgrimage of Grace - an event one would expect to be a much more sedate and gentle affair from its name - prior to reading this book, so I wasn't sure what to expect. What I got was not just a history lesson (although there is undoubtedly an educational aspect to this novel) but a touching and exciting story about what it meant to be a woman from an ordinary family in the reign of Henry VIII.

Although much of the plot is driven by the actions of men, the women are the ones who feel the effects of what is happening in distant towns and in the courts of the King. They are left to fend for themselves while the men are fighting, not knowing whether they're about to be left helpless and alone or whether they might be punished for something they have taken no part in. That's not to say that they're passive - Nan is far from that - but that they are often powerless to take a hand in their own lives.

Even though this is meant for young adults, it can still be enjoyed by anyone who has an interest in this period of history. Katharine Edgar certainly pulls no punches in describing the brutality of life in the Tudor age, and the ominous sense that anybody's life could be ended at any time on the whim of a king or lord. It also provides a useful antidote to the version of Thomas Cromwell given in Wolf Hall; even though he doesn't appear in Five Wounds in person, his influence is everywhere, and is malign. I wonder if Hilary Mantel will cover the sack of the monasteries and the murder of some of the religious orders in her third volume in as much detail as this book does.

Nan's journey from naive girlhood to jaded maturity is wonderfully realised; she hasn't been overly modernised to make her more "relateable", for instance by playing down her faith or her devotion to the holy relics of Catholicism, but she has enough flaws and weaknesses to keep her believable. I am pleased from reading other reviews to learn that a sequel might be in the pipeline. This is a character with whom I would gladly spend more time.
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Reading Progress

Started Reading
March 11, 2015 – Shelved
March 11, 2015 – Finished Reading

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