Lorraine R. (southampton, NY)
Acts of Providence
An intelligently written, carefully researched first novel, ACTS OF PROVIDENCE was both interesting and thought provoking to read. Stacia Brown brought the 1700's in London to life with her detailed description of how common people lived. She exposed the inequalities of the courts of law, in particular the complete denial of rights of women. She showed how vulnerable women were to their circumstances. both personal and public. This was an extremely well-written historical novel that blended political, religious and social beliefs of a revolutionary period of Britain's history.
Mary S. (Bow, NH)
A good read, not a great one
Accidents of Providence by Stacia Brown tells the story of a woman in Oliver Cromwell's England who is accused of having a baby out of wedlock.
The setting of the story is very good. It is obvious Ms. Brown has done her research. The dialogue is also very good. However, some of the main character's internal dialogue gets lengthy (and doesn't add anything to the novel). As well, there are some scenes that also don't add anything to the novel. For example, the main character (a glove-maker) makes gloves for all of her gaolers on Christmas Eve, but that is the last that the reader hears about the gloves.
Overall I enjoyed this book, but I was not swept away by it.
Bonnie B. (Port St. Lucie,, FL)
A Captivating Love Story and Tragedy
The year is 1649 and England is fraught with political turmoil. Different political parties fight for power and war is raging. The author renders the ambiance of London well - the stench, poverty, turmoil and chaos.
Rachel is a glove maker's assistant and finds out that she is pregnant. She has been having an affair with a married man that already has 14 children. English law states that if a woman kills her child after giving birth, she is to be put to death. After Rachel's baby is born, her boss sees her walking to a deserted area carrying a bundle and follows her. She sees Rachel burying something. The next day, her boss digs up what she finds to be an infant's grave and reports Rachel to the authorities. A trial ensues.
The book is very captivating. My only criticism is that there is too much political information in it, as though the author used her dissertation as the background for the story and added the novel's most interesting aspects - Rachel's pregnancy, her love affair, the trial - as an afterwards. Despite this, most of the book was riveting and I think it deserves a high '4'.
Deanna W. (Port Jefferson, NY)
Well Researched Historic Fiction
I really enjoy historical novels. Having read Fingersmith and The Dress Lodger, I was looking forward to reading this book. It has all the elements one could want in an historic novel - a secret love affair - a crime - investigation public trail and a surprise twist at the end.
Perhaps too much of the novel was spent on the ideology of the Levelers and the Puritans.
Over all, an enjoyable and informative read.
Diane S. (Batavia, IL)
Accidents of Providence by Stacia Brown
It is the middle of the 1600's, and in Cromwell's Puritan England a law has been passed to prevent the Destroying and murdering of the children of unmarried woman. I have long been fascinated with the Puritans, their strange relationship with God, where everything pleasurable is a considered a sin, and woman on the fringes are looked on with suspicion. The character of Rachel, is one that will stay with me for a long time, she is so multifaceted and yet so human. It is not until the very end that we find out what happened to her child, among many twists and turns, an investigation and a trial. This book is very well researched, the writing very emotional and the politics of the day, the movement of the Levelers, adding much to the story line. Rachel's plight will touch the other characters in the book, changing many, in good and bad ways. As the investigator Bartwain comments while observing Rachel's trial, "We have decapitated our king and disbanded our House of Lords, and now there is no one left to restore reason and line and order." Life was extremely hard for all, but woman were so harshly judged and often had no recourse.
Shirley S. (Batavia, IL)
Accidents of Providence
A great 17th century history lesson of both customs and religion feed by a wonderful, descriptive writing style. The protagonist a strange but endearing character. One might guess the ending from the beginning but the journey is worth the taking. Never overly written, the narrative introduces a myriad of hamlet dwellers that become as endearing as the story.
Deborah M. (Chambersburug, PA)
Interesting Historical Period; Feminist Issues
Set in Oliver Cromwell's England in the year following the beheading of Charles II, this novel draws on a number of intriguing historical facts and legal cases. It opens as legal investigator Bartwain prepares an indictment against spinster Rachel Lockyer, charged under a new law that demands the execution of any woman found guilty of secretly disposing of her bastard infant, whether the child had been born alive or dead. Rachel, an apprentice glovemaker, had become entangled in a passionate affair with William Walwyn, a married Leveller and father of fourteen who pens pamphlets against the Puritan leaders and their rigid, merciless laws. There are several surprising twists in the plot (not to be revealed here), some of them based on intriguing facts that are outlined in the epilogue.
While much of the novel details the affair, the investigation, and the trial, Brown also questions the religious intolerance, misogyny, harsh prison conditions, and class divisions in Cromwell's Commonwealth, and she paints a disturbing picture of the paranoia such a society engenders. As a reader, however, I sensed that the author had perhaps taken on a theme or two too many. Still, it is worth reading for a view of a historical period not often covered in fiction and for the relationships among the female characters.