cover image Tidelands


Philippa Gregory. Atria, $28 (480p) ISBN 978-1-50118-715-5

Gregory (The Other Boleyn Girl) deviates from her usual focus on historical figures to shine a light on the plight of common women in 1640s England in the dynamic first book of her new Fairmile series. Alinor, a midwife with knowledge of herbal remedies, is in difficult circumstances. Her fisherman husband has been gone for months, and she must care for herself and her two growing children during a precarious time in England’s history. King Charles, forced off his throne by Parliament, has been banished to the Isle of Wight following his defeat in civil war. It’s also a period when a strong woman on her own, like the beautiful Alinor who has skills that others can’t understand, can easily be accused of being a witch; the author cleverly plants such seeds of suspicion throughout. At the open, Alinor meets a handsome, young Catholic priest, a royals champion with the means to help the king escape. She helps the priest find a haven, and their ensuing romance has devastating consequences for both. Against the backdrop of political turmoil, Gregory’s narrative displays the harrowing mores of the time, showcasing the vulnerability of women who speak their mind and introducing a family struggling out of poverty who will provide plenty of grist for the mill of a continuing saga. History buffs and Gregory’s fans alike will be anticipating the next installment.[em] (Aug.) [/em]