Rebecca Radnor's Reviews > Newes from the Dead

Newes from the Dead by Mary Hooper
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's review
May 14, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: british-uk, colonial-period, historical-fiction-ya, science-history

Based on a 1650 historical event: Ann, a gullible English housemaid hung for infanticide, lies in her coffin in a semiconscious coma. The story alternates between the events leading up to her hanging, and the observations of a young medical student there to watch her dissection. Based primary documents, the story deals with a lot of mature themes. For instance, infanticide is a crime only for the lower classes, and the book does a very good job of describing their oppressed situation in England at that time. The physician suffers from a debilitating stutter, and as I said before, the constant gullibility of the housemaid results in a lot of foreseeable outcomes. In spite of these heavy handed, elements (you sometimes get the feeling the author is warning young girls to protect their chastity from lying young men), it's still a very good read and has a highly realistic feeling. You learn not only about the life of young maids, but also about the legal system, the recent civil war, religious tensions, the state of medicine at those times, etc. If you click the BBC link (below), there's actually a radio show of an historian talking about what happened. Apparently this is the radio show that inspired the author to research and write the book. At the end the author talks about which parts she made up.

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