Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Book Review: The Gallows Curse by Karen Maitland


Genre:  Historical Fiction


Published by:  Michael Joseph  (Mar 2011)


Pages:  576  (Paperback)


My Rating:  9.5 / 10






Elena is 16 years old, a naive, fragile flame-haired girl, working as a maid for Lady Anne.  She becomes pregnant and has strange dreams in which she appears to kill her new born baby.
Raffaele is a middle-aged man, steward to Lady Anne, he has carried out horrendous crimes in his past for which he can’t forgive himself, but I believe he is a good man.  And he has a soft spot for Elena.

Due to a deliberate act of well-meaning deceipt, their lives become bound forever together.

The year is 1210 -- not a good year in England -- King John has opposed the Pope in wanting his own man to be the Archbishop of Canterbury, not the man that the Pope has requested.  As a punishment the Pope has denied the people all the rites of the church; no church services, no baptisms, no last rites for the dying.

Against this backdrop of fear, as Elena is accused of murdering her baby and sentenced to hang by the evil Lord Osborn, who has now taken over Lady Anne’s house, she flees to safety but her nightmares have only just begun. The man who hunts her, Osborn, will stop at nothing to find her but Raffaele is equally determined to protect her at all costs.

I enjoyed this book enormously, the writing was pacy, descriptive and compelling.  All the characters, both good and bad, were full of life.

People were God fearing  and I was fascinated by the many superstitions the people  believed in such as spitting 3 times on their forefingers to ward off evil and laying a mistletoe twig and sprinkling salt in a newborn’s crib to prevent the faeries abducting the child.  They were terrified of their souls rotting in hell if they didn’t carry out these practices.

I could almost smell the rotting food  and raw sewage running through the middle of the tiny streets and feel the evil among the all enveloping darkness when all that could be seen was an odd chink of light coming from one of the run down houses.

This is a story full of treachery, lies, treason with a murder or two thrown in for good measure! The original plotline kept me hooked throughout all 500+ pages, the story never slowed down, I didn’t think there were any boring parts.

If you enjoy reading books like The Pillars of the Earth I’m pretty sure you will enjoy this!

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