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Tidelands

Review

Tidelands

Alinor is a poor woman. Her life in the marshlands of England is harsh, and it doesn’t help that she’s terrified of the water that surrounds her home and, in many ways, dictates every second of her life. Her husband abandoned her, and her brother, who runs the ferry, has finally returned from battle and is able to help her and her children. But the civil war is far from over. England in 1648 is not an easy place to live for anyone, and life in the tidelands is even more difficult.

A wise woman knowledgeable in herbs and home remedies, Alinor has always stood apart from her neighbors. They feel for her but don’t want her to be their problem, either. Her skills, especially as a midwife, help, but superstition clings to her.

"Historical fiction is a favorite genre of mine, and I fall easily into stories like this one. What Gregory does so wonderfully, though, is to make you see how unjust the world can be, especially for women of a particular time period."

However, when Alinor meets a stranger one night, her life changes. As payment for bringing James Summer to the local lord, she is rewarded, and the hardships of her meager life are lifted ever so slightly when she is offered money for her silence. Her son is also promised as a companion to the lord’s son, and eventually to an apothecary. Having no other option and wanting to do everything she can to help her family, Alinor accepts and goes about her life grateful for what little fortune has come her way.

When James takes ill, Alinor is called to help. It is during this time that they express their love for one another. When his fever subsides and his health returns, they part ways but vow to reunite when the war is over and the kingdom is once more on solid ground. Unfortunately, life throws even more at Alinor before any of these promises of love can come to fruition.

I adore the way that Philippa Gregory tells a story. I especially love how she brings to life female characters and makes them queens in their own right, even if they are mere herbalists on a wet slice of land dogged by fear and superstition. Alinor does everything she can to help her family survive and thrive in the world in which they live. It’s not easy for her, but she persists. When faced with ruin, she stands even taller, refusing to let her family take any blame for their actions and choosing to face the consequences for them. While others must endure such hardships, it’s Alinor who manages to stand above it all and show strength even when she’s accused of casting charms and being a faerie…or worse, a witch.

Historical fiction is a favorite genre of mine, and I fall easily into stories like this one. What Gregory does so wonderfully, though, is to make you see how unjust the world can be, especially for women of a particular time period. While there are individuals here who may cause you to toss the book out of anger, you’ll come right back, wanting to find out what happens to this one woman on a small bit of land in the 17th century.

Reviewed by Amy Gwiazdowski on August 23, 2019

Tidelands
by Philippa Gregory

  • Publication Date: August 20, 2019
  • Genres: Fiction, Historical Fiction
  • Hardcover: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Atria Books
  • ISBN-10: 1501187155
  • ISBN-13: 9781501187155