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The Wheelwright's Daughter: A brand new historical fiction debut

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Can she save herself from a witch's fate? Martha is a feisty and articulate young woman, the daughter of a wheelwright, living in a Herefordshire village in Elizabethan England. With no mother Martha's life is spent running her father's meagre household and helping out at the local school whilst longing to escape the confines and small-mindedness of a community driven by re Can she save herself from a witch's fate? Martha is a feisty and articulate young woman, the daughter of a wheelwright, living in a Herefordshire village in Elizabethan England. With no mother Martha's life is spent running her father's meagre household and helping out at the local school whilst longing to escape the confines and small-mindedness of a community driven by religious bigotry and poverty. As she is able to read and is well-versed in herbal remedies she is suspected of being a witch. When a landslip occurs - opening up a huge chasm in the centre of the village - she is blamed for it and pursued remorselessly by the villagers. But can her own wits and the love of local stablehand Jacob save her from a witch's persecution and death... A brilliant and accomplished novel that perfectly captures the febrile atmosphere of Elizabethan village life in an age when suspicion and superstition were rife. Perfect for fans of Tracy Chevalier.


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Can she save herself from a witch's fate? Martha is a feisty and articulate young woman, the daughter of a wheelwright, living in a Herefordshire village in Elizabethan England. With no mother Martha's life is spent running her father's meagre household and helping out at the local school whilst longing to escape the confines and small-mindedness of a community driven by re Can she save herself from a witch's fate? Martha is a feisty and articulate young woman, the daughter of a wheelwright, living in a Herefordshire village in Elizabethan England. With no mother Martha's life is spent running her father's meagre household and helping out at the local school whilst longing to escape the confines and small-mindedness of a community driven by religious bigotry and poverty. As she is able to read and is well-versed in herbal remedies she is suspected of being a witch. When a landslip occurs - opening up a huge chasm in the centre of the village - she is blamed for it and pursued remorselessly by the villagers. But can her own wits and the love of local stablehand Jacob save her from a witch's persecution and death... A brilliant and accomplished novel that perfectly captures the febrile atmosphere of Elizabethan village life in an age when suspicion and superstition were rife. Perfect for fans of Tracy Chevalier.

30 review for The Wheelwright's Daughter: A brand new historical fiction debut

  1. 4 out of 5

    Dash fan

    4☆ A Compelling Historical Story shrouded in Mystery and Superstition. The Wheelwright’s Daughter is a compelling story set in 1500s, shrouded in mystery and superstition. Martha is a young woman who is educated, free spirited, feisty, and loves nature and herbs. Which unfortunately doesn't go down well with the villagers. Especially when these are times where anyone seen as being different was accused of witchcraft was rife. Her father is not a very nice man, his drunk and expects Martha to do eve 4☆ A Compelling Historical Story shrouded in Mystery and Superstition. The Wheelwright’s Daughter is a compelling story set in 1500s, shrouded in mystery and superstition. Martha is a young woman who is educated, free spirited, feisty, and loves nature and herbs. Which unfortunately doesn't go down well with the villagers. Especially when these are times where anyone seen as being different was accused of witchcraft was rife. Her father is not a very nice man, his drunk and expects Martha to do everything including earning. Martha helps out in her village school teaching the children to read and write. Which also doesn't go down well, as some believe words and books are magic and not to be trusted. But when an act of nature happens in the village, some villagers blame the devil and of course Martha bares the brunt of the allegations as she dabbles with herbal remedies and is educated with books. Which in these times cause for suspicions. But can Martha clear her name and prove she is not a witch? The Wheelwright’s Daughter is a beautifully captivating and highly compelling historical story. It's a story that's poignant, shrouded in mystery and superstition, drama and unpleasantness. It felt authentic, wonderfully intriguing and Porter captures the atmosphere perfectly, and successfully transporting me right into the heart of story. I loved the superstition and mystery surrounding witchcraft and herbal remedies, I found it fascinating but at the same time heartbreaking and shocking as to how people were treated appallingly due to being different! The characters are complex, not all likeable, but there not meant to be especially Father Paul, they evoked the right emotions. If you are looking for a new Historical Fiction that delves into witchcraft, mystery and superstition set in the 1500s, that will keep you enthralled then I highly recommend reading The Wheelwright’s Daughter! Thank you to Rachel Random Resources for this copy which I reviewed honestly and voluntarily. You can Find this Review and all my Other Reviews on My Blog :- https://dashfan81.blogspot.com/2020/0...

  2. 4 out of 5

    Nursebookie

    The Wheelwright's Daughter is Eleanor Porter's debut novel. This historical fiction novel was an amazing read for me that was set in the mid to late 1500’s Elizabethan period. The protagonist is Martha, raised only by her father, the village wheelwright –in Herefordshire Village. Martha is a brilliant character and a strong woman. She runs the household, helps in the school, is well educated and able to read. This gives her knowledge on the basics of herbal remedies. It’s so unfortunate that her The Wheelwright's Daughter is Eleanor Porter's debut novel. This historical fiction novel was an amazing read for me that was set in the mid to late 1500’s Elizabethan period. The protagonist is Martha, raised only by her father, the village wheelwright –in Herefordshire Village. Martha is a brilliant character and a strong woman. She runs the household, helps in the school, is well educated and able to read. This gives her knowledge on the basics of herbal remedies. It’s so unfortunate that her small village, townsfolks are more prone to religious bigotry, suspicions, gossips and superstitious beliefs. Martha longs for independence and to live a life where women are respected. Instead, an unfortunate incident in the village points fingers to Martha blaming her and suspecting her of being a witch. The Wheelwright’s Daughter was exceptionally written Historical Fiction read that transported me to 1500 Elizabethan period with the beautiful language used appropriate for the time set in this story. The research was impeccable and found this adds to make this book an even more powerful, and a captivating read that I really enjoyed from the very first page. I loved the characters and most especially Martha our heroine who was so ahead of her time. What a spellbinding read I thoroughly enjoyed!!

  3. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    'Martha is a feisty and articulate young woman, the daughter of a wheelwright, living in a Herefordshire village in Elizabethan England. With no mother Martha's life is spent running her father's meagre household and helping out at the local school whilst longing to escape the confines and small-mindedness of a community driven by religious bigotry and poverty. As she is able to read and is well-versed in herbal remedies she is suspected of being a witch. When a landslip occurs - opening up a hug 'Martha is a feisty and articulate young woman, the daughter of a wheelwright, living in a Herefordshire village in Elizabethan England. With no mother Martha's life is spent running her father's meagre household and helping out at the local school whilst longing to escape the confines and small-mindedness of a community driven by religious bigotry and poverty. As she is able to read and is well-versed in herbal remedies she is suspected of being a witch. When a landslip occurs - opening up a huge chasm in the centre of the village - she is blamed for it and pursued remorselessly by the villagers. But can her own wits and the love of local stablehand Jacob save her from a witch's persecution and death...' ___________________________________ 4.5 stars, rounded up to 5. The Wheelwright's Daughter is Eleanor Porter's debut novel and I look forward to reading more from her. The book takes place in the late 1500s and the author very seemlessly uses a historic voice that makes everything seem more real and helps this story of Elizabethan England come to life. The wording she used sets the perfect tone for this time period so that you feel immersed, but not to so far as to make it hard to understand. But if you're not a native English speaker reading this book, it may be a  little tough. There is a large cast of characters in this book and many of them are quite unlikable, but your not meant to. And as for our main character, Martha is also often difficult to like. She is constantly making more trouble for herself. She is in a percarious position in her village with almost no protection, but still she lashes out and invites danger everytime she meets with opposition. Her pride and naivety make her foolish. The further I read, the more sympathetic I became with her character and then I was so invested in her fate. She may be prideful and angry, but she is also young and lonely. The poor girl has such terrible luck, I'm sure if she didn't have her pride then she would feel as though she had nothing. And not having all the facts puts her at a disadvantage for far too long. But I'll say no more on that, you'll have to read to see for yourself. I rated this book 4.5 stars instead of 5 because I found the book a little slow to start and therefore it took me a bit longer to become invested in the story. Plus I was a little disappointed that the book ended on a cliffhanger. There is enough information given that I can infer as to how way things may have turned out for Martha, but then I still won't know for certain. With all that happened over the course of the book and how the storyline pulled me in, I would have preferred to have a little more closure at the end of the book by knowing Martha's fate. But perhaps there will be a sequel and I'll find out for certain? I nearly rounded my 4.5 down to four stars, but after thinking on it, I really think this book deserves to be rounded up to the five instead. Any book that can start(and continue until about the halfway point) with my not really liking the main character much and to then so fully pull me in and have me rooting for her character? That is deserving of 5 stars for me. The Wheelwright's Daughter is a little slow to start, but then it really pulls you in and through both the mundane and fantastical you'll want to keep going side-by-side with Martha to see how her fate plays out. This was a brilliant debut novel and I look forward to seeing more by Eleanor Porter in the future and would be interested to see if Martha's story is ever expanded upon. If you like historical fiction and have ever been intruiged by the poor women forced to endure witch trials, then I strongly recommend this book to you. _____ I would like to thank NetGalley and Boldwood Books for sharing a copy of The Wheelwright's Daughter by Eleanor Porter with me for reviewing purposes. This is my honest review.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Emma

    This was a detailed and absorbing study of village life during a time of superstition and religious fervour. Martha and her father are unpopular in the village where they live and we see the village collectively blame her and accuse her of witchcraft. Martha doesn’t help herself by being pretty flippant to the villagers. Many thanks to Netgalley for an arc of this book.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Cathy

    For those who’ve read any amount of historical fiction set in the 16th century, it will be a familiar (no pun intended) story: an independent-minded, young woman educated beyond what might be expected with a knowledge of herbal remedies suspected of witchcraft by those who seek answers for events they cannot comprehend. In this case, the seemingly incomprehensible event is a geological one, a landslip that destroys the village chapel. What clearer message can there be, some villagers wonder, that For those who’ve read any amount of historical fiction set in the 16th century, it will be a familiar (no pun intended) story: an independent-minded, young woman educated beyond what might be expected with a knowledge of herbal remedies suspected of witchcraft by those who seek answers for events they cannot comprehend. In this case, the seemingly incomprehensible event is a geological one, a landslip that destroys the village chapel. What clearer message can there be, some villagers wonder, that the Devil is in their midst? They are encouraged in this belief by the charismatic but sinister Father Paul who is bent on rooting out Catholics priests and prepared to use any pretext to gain favour and satisfy his own puritanical urges. As is often the case, there’s a misogynistic, not to mention rather un-priestlike, element to his fervour. It has to be said that Martha doesn’t help herself initially, making light of the whispered rumours about her and continuing to roam the countryside alone at night, relying on the continued support of the daughter of the Lord of the Manor to protect her. The fact that Martha’s father is a drunkard prone to profane outbursts doesn’t help. Nor, unknown to Martha, do the circumstances of her mother’s death. As a friend warns her, “They are afraid…all these goings-on. Who’s to know what’s behind it all? It’s easier for them to decide it must be you.” Along with a generous cast of secondary characters, there is some lovely detail about village life in the period, such as seasonal celebrations. The book’s conclusion invites the reader to use their own imagination to decide Martha’s future or, perhaps, to wait patiently for a possible sequel. The Wheelwright’s Daughter is a skilfully crafted story of love, betrayal, superstition and fear in 16th century England.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Joanna Park

    I’m a huge fan of books about witchcraft so you can imagine how much this book appealed to me. I especially liked that this book was set in a village near to where I live as I felt I could picture the setting of this story. The historical details in this book was superb and I felt fully transported back to the 16th Century with all the little details about village life. I particularly liked the descriptions of the seasonal celebrations as I hadn’t heard of them before. Martha was a fantastic main I’m a huge fan of books about witchcraft so you can imagine how much this book appealed to me. I especially liked that this book was set in a village near to where I live as I felt I could picture the setting of this story. The historical details in this book was superb and I felt fully transported back to the 16th Century with all the little details about village life. I particularly liked the descriptions of the seasonal celebrations as I hadn’t heard of them before. Martha was a fantastic main character who I warmed to instantly. She’s definitely ahead of her time being headstrong and independent in a time when women weren’t expected to be. It must have been very difficult to be a single women at the time, particularly if you happened to be good at herbal medicine. The amount of superstition over magic and witchcraft was amazing and made me wonder how on earth people could believe in that stuff. The church helped fuel these superstitions to gain power and help keep people fearful, which makes the priest in this book not a very likeable character. There’s something evil about him and I found myself hoping he would meet a sticky end somehow. Overall I thought this was a very interesting read which was an impressive debut novel. The ending was interesting as the author leaves it open for the reader to draw their own conclusions. I’m hopeful that this means there is a sequel planned. Huge thanks to Rachel from Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me onto the blog tour and for my copy of this book.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    I really enjoy reading historical novels and I am fascinated by the witch trials that took place – both in England and America. However, I am finding books few and far between that really absorb me in this time period: often they are rather dry depictions of this time and do not capture my imagination. Alas, this was the case with Porter’s novel. This book feels like it was written hundreds of years ago, rather than in 2020. I found that Porter’s narrative style is considerably heavy-going and wo I really enjoy reading historical novels and I am fascinated by the witch trials that took place – both in England and America. However, I am finding books few and far between that really absorb me in this time period: often they are rather dry depictions of this time and do not capture my imagination. Alas, this was the case with Porter’s novel. This book feels like it was written hundreds of years ago, rather than in 2020. I found that Porter’s narrative style is considerably heavy-going and wordy. The text felt dense and I did not get a sense of pace nor action. From the first few chapters I struggled to engage with the story, but hoped I could adapt to Porter’s style. However, this never happened and instead I drifted through the book with little engagement or interest. I think it is the writing style that really deterred me. The blurb and plot itself is exactly to my tastes. The persecution of Martha and how she escapes the judgement from those around her is just what I was seeking. Yet, Porter’s depiction did not seem to convey this too well. I felt like I was reading more of an academia piece of writing over historical fiction. It is clear that Porter has done her research on this period. I think it will suit fans of historical fiction but the book needs to be approached with determination and grit – similar to a classic like Austen or Dickens! I’m not asking for a young adult story, but I would have wanted something more engaging and exciting; I could not find it in this narrative. This is the beginning of the series. The novel does end on an intriguing cliff-hanger but I am going to have to leave it a while before I attempt the sequel. Although just slightly curious to see what happens next, I think I need to build myself up to Porter’s writing style again before I embark on the next adventure. Alas, this book did not appeal to my reading this time. With thanks to Boldwood Books, NetGalley and Rachel’s Random Resources for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Mick Dubois

    It’s 1570, 12 years into the rain of Queen Elisabeth 1. It is an era where superstition still reigns very strong as well in the cities but even more so in the countryside where priests are often the only people able to read and write. Even the better-educated people are not immune to those old unchristian beliefs. Protestantism is widely accepted and young people don’t know or remember ‘the old faith’. Those hanging on to the catholic faith are seen as papist traitors who are conspiring against It’s 1570, 12 years into the rain of Queen Elisabeth 1. It is an era where superstition still reigns very strong as well in the cities but even more so in the countryside where priests are often the only people able to read and write. Even the better-educated people are not immune to those old unchristian beliefs. Protestantism is widely accepted and young people don’t know or remember ‘the old faith’. Those hanging on to the catholic faith are seen as papist traitors who are conspiring against the queen. 16-year-old Martha is the only daughter of a wheelwright in the small English village Marcle Ridge. Her dad taught her to read and write and her grandmother taught her everything about herbal remedies and plant wisdom she knew herself. On top of that, they have the favour of the hall and live in a ‘nice’ and a rather spacious cottage (compared to that of other neighbours) much to the envy of some villagers who say that it’s too big for just 1 man and his daughter. Miss Elisabeth, the squire’s daughter is a very religious person and beliefs that no soul should remain without salvation and that people should be able to read the Bible. She asks Martha to be a teacher to the village boys and teach them how to read. Lessons are attended when their fathers can spare them not to work on the land. Some people still think that letters are magic and can be used as a curse when written down. It’s a very bad autumn and winter with rain almost every day. When a small earthquake causes a hole in the road, the villagers think it’s made by a devil. The priest tells them it’s a sign of Gods dissatisfaction with the sinning in the village. The hill near the village starts making strange noises as well. But as it goes, people get used to it and ignore this phenomenon. Or they say that there’s a dragon sleeping in the hill and that its stomach makes those rumbling noises. And it keeps raining. You know there’s a disaster in the making. As gossip and jealousy grow in the village combined with natural disasters and accidents, you feel everything is building up to the point where Martha is publicly accused of being a witch. Despite having done nothing wrong, with her unusual learning and herbal remedies she’s an outsider in the village. And in a time of fear, it’s always easiest to look for scapegoats in those not conforming to the standards. I loved this story, set in an age and environment about which I knew very little. The writer does very well in recreating the feel of this period. Even her language is adapted to the time. Of course, if this would be written in Elizabethan English we would have a very hard time reading the prose, but she does a great job. If you’re not a native English speaker, you might have to look up certain words but usually, the context explains the meaning. There are very beautiful evocative descriptions of the countryside, village, the great hall, and the festivities on certain occasions. It’s very interesting to read about the customs and habitual traditions of our forebears that now are most often forgotten. I.e. the pre-Victorian Christmas traditions or plough-day, a feast I’ve never heard of albeit several spring celebrations live on today in rural communities. The relations between the various families in the village and their behaviour towards each other and towards the girl are very skilfully painted. You really feel the danger creeping up on the girl, who naively is long time unaware of the tension around her. Certainly, the lecherous father Paul and the widow Spicer and her sister come to life before your eyes. Unfortunately, the book ends in a cliff hanger. Things seem to look a bit better for the heroine, but there’s no conclusion or real ending. I do hope this is the first book in a larger series because Martha’s story is far from over. So, Mrs Porter, if you read this: please give us a sequel! I thank NetGalley and Boldwood Books for their free copy of this book. This is my honest, unbiased review of it.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Julie

    Eleanor Porter’s impressive debut novel The Wheelwright’s Daughter is a superb historical novel rich in atmosphere, drama, intrigue and intensity. Set during a time of terror, blackmail and suspicion, The Wheelwright’s Daughter is an accomplished first novel that will blow historical fiction aficionados away. Martha is an intelligent and erudite woman who lives in an English village during Elizabethan times and spends her life looking after her wheelwright father’s household and helping out at th Eleanor Porter’s impressive debut novel The Wheelwright’s Daughter is a superb historical novel rich in atmosphere, drama, intrigue and intensity. Set during a time of terror, blackmail and suspicion, The Wheelwright’s Daughter is an accomplished first novel that will blow historical fiction aficionados away. Martha is an intelligent and erudite woman who lives in an English village during Elizabethan times and spends her life looking after her wheelwright father’s household and helping out at the local school. Martha finds the shackles binding her to the village and her wheelwright father constricting, claustrophobic and confining. Her brain is desperate for succour and knowledge yet her life is a constant and exhausting trap of chores, triviality and duty that leaves her frustrated each and every day. Martha yearns for escape and for a better life than the one she is forced to endure. She longs to leave the village and its small-minded bigotry and hatred behind her yet as a woman on her own she knows that this is a dream which she might not be able to turn into reality. With a love of reading and learning, Martha spends her days trying her utmost to widen her horizons and increase her knowledge by reading as much as she possibly can. Well-versed in herbal remedies, the village rumour mill quickly begins to gain ground as they begin to suspect her of being a witch. Relentless in their pursuit of Martha, the villagers’ ill-founded suspicions begin to gain traction and when a landslip occurs in the village, the wheelwright’s daughter is blamed for this tragic accident. Martha’s life is in jeopardy. She knows that the villagers will not rest until they wreak their revenge by claiming her life. Yet, courageous Martha knows that she cannot simply surrender and wait for the villagers to come and kill her. She will not succumb to their ignorance and suspicions. With only Jacob, the stable hand whom she is in love with, on her side, Martha will need all of her wits and resolve to emerge out of this unscathed and unharmed. Will the Wheelwright’s Daughter manage to triumph over ignorance, callowness and ridiculous conjecture and succeed in finding the happiness which her station in life has denied her for so long? Or will she end up paying the ultimate price for merely being a brave and intelligent woman? The Wheelwright’s Daughter is an outstanding historical novel that is wonderfully evocative, powerfully written and spiced with danger, suspense and atmosphere that plunges the reader into the 16th Century with élan and aplomb. Eleanor Porter brings the Elizabethan Age to life by penning an intriguing, engrossing and captivating tale of love, superstition and betrayal that has at its heart a courageous, clever and bold heroine readers cannot help but admire. The Wheelwright’s Daughter is a spellbinding historical novel and one which augurs a bright future for its talented author: Eleanor Porter.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Stina

    The premise sounded promising but I don't like books or stories about witchcraft, so therefore I didn't finish it. Although the reviews are encouraging, it just wasn't my cup of tea. The premise sounded promising but I don't like books or stories about witchcraft, so therefore I didn't finish it. Although the reviews are encouraging, it just wasn't my cup of tea.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Jane Hunt

    This story is set in Elizabethan England in the late sixteenth century when religious persecution was rife and witchhunts common. Martha is a young woman raised by her grandmother and father. Educated, intelligent with independent ways that make the villagers' distrustful of her. After her grandmother's death, there is no one to protect Martha from her father's drinking, and she is vulnerable to the dangerous, pious priest and the villagers' superstitions. Martha experiences coming of age in a da This story is set in Elizabethan England in the late sixteenth century when religious persecution was rife and witchhunts common. Martha is a young woman raised by her grandmother and father. Educated, intelligent with independent ways that make the villagers' distrustful of her. After her grandmother's death, there is no one to protect Martha from her father's drinking, and she is vulnerable to the dangerous, pious priest and the villagers' superstitions. Martha experiences coming of age in a dangerous world with little sympathetic support and much superstition. The story is claustrophobic and immersive, as the reader experiences the danger, superstitions and treachery of this historical period from Martha's point of view. Authentic, often unlikeable characters draw the reader into this story. Martha is easy to empathise with, and you want her to survive. I received a copy of this book from Boldwood Books via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Leelynn (Sometimes Leelynn Reads) ❤

    Disclaimer: I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Thank you to Rachel’s Random Resources, Netgalley and Boldwood Books for this free copy. All quotes in this review are taken from the Advanced Reader Copy and may change in final publication. One of the things that I had to remember about this time period is that women that were educated were always seen as being witches or just… incorrect in some way. Whether it was just being well-re Disclaimer: I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Thank you to Rachel’s Random Resources, Netgalley and Boldwood Books for this free copy. All quotes in this review are taken from the Advanced Reader Copy and may change in final publication. One of the things that I had to remember about this time period is that women that were educated were always seen as being witches or just… incorrect in some way. Whether it was just being well-read, or even just learning medicinal properties more than what was expected of them to know, anything more than that and a woman was “causing trouble”. So I had to keep my anger in check when she started getting blamed for something that wasn’t even her fault. Because witches, or whatever. Anyway, I think that Porter wrote this book well, and it really did make me feel like I was going back in time to a period where women like me would not have been accepted. It just made me want to appreciate that even though things aren’t perfect right now, I have the opportunity to not be literally executed for witchcraft, ya feel? So having that feeling of danger and anxiousness surrounding me as I read this because that’s what Martha was going through was an excellent touch. I also think that even though this book did talk about religious bigotry as one of the main reasons for Martha’s troubles, Porter did a good job at not vilifying religion as a whole. There are some people that are strong in their faith and religion, and when books make all religion sound cruel and punishing, it can turn off a lot of potential readers. This wasn’t the case in this book, which I’m glad to see because it would have turned me off as well.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Liz

    I'll admit that I was hooked in by the cover - I'm a complete sucker for a good cover. Luckily, the book didn't disappoint either. A completely absorbing story that had me from the first page. A great read. I'll admit that I was hooked in by the cover - I'm a complete sucker for a good cover. Luckily, the book didn't disappoint either. A completely absorbing story that had me from the first page. A great read.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Em Jackson

    Set in Elizabethan England, The Wheelwrights Daughter is the story of Martha, who for reasons she’s never fully been able to explain, is the pox of her small village. Her grandmother taught her to use herbs, and her father taught her to read and write. She’s the favor of the local lord’s daughter, and her family comparably well off… but through simply being born and raised, she’s seen as dangerous. While her life is plagued by people declaring she’s evil, and trying to get rid of her, Martha hol Set in Elizabethan England, The Wheelwrights Daughter is the story of Martha, who for reasons she’s never fully been able to explain, is the pox of her small village. Her grandmother taught her to use herbs, and her father taught her to read and write. She’s the favor of the local lord’s daughter, and her family comparably well off… but through simply being born and raised, she’s seen as dangerous. While her life is plagued by people declaring she’s evil, and trying to get rid of her, Martha holds hope, and tries to help those she can. Though, in a village where almanacs aren’t even accepted, hope is wearing thin. Written in 1st person, with Martha as our narrator, we follow her as she tries to simply exist. We’re immediately sucked back into her time, with dialogue and description perfect for the setting. The world is vivid, well explained as far as Martha would know it, and depicted as if she’s retelling her story, rather than us living in her head. The language itself did take a little getting used to, and more than once I wasn’t sure what had been meant, but it’s so delicately placed in ye old England, I couldn’t get enough. I don’t read a lot of historical novels, so maybe that’s standard for the genre, but parts of this, I felt, could have been directly plucked from an old book. If you’re a lover of historical novels, I’d absolutely check this out. To boot, as a narrator, Martha is wonderful. She’s self-deprecating, haughty, and knows she’s worth more than those around her are trying to proclaim… but she’s also stuck in that world, unable to escape. Like a bird with a broken wing. Her father was born wealthy and raised very well for the time. After an awful accident, he was left orphaned, and at the mercy of others. He didn’t turn out as his parents would have wanted. Compared to the general population, he does well, but it’s not what they’d have envisioned. While he and Martha live in one of the nicest cottages in the area, it’s still a far cry from what he’d come from – and I honestly think, inherently, she knows that. She’s also not necessarily modern, but she thinks broader than the church, something that riles the villagers up and puts her square in her sights. Her father is a man of science, for the time, and notices what the land is saying, rather than assuming it’s all about religion. Martha, without realizing, does the same. As she’s our narrator, everything we know about other characters comes from her, and her opinions. She’s jaded, opinionated, and truthfully, a very unreliable voice, but she’s true to herself, and it comes across fluidly, and genuine. I loved her headspace. It’s so back and forth, never quite settling on good or bad. Through this, we see a huge variety of people, with great diversity, and they’re all portrayed in tandem with how they treat Martha. There’s the Widow, Martha’s neighbor, who is a horrible woman. Long and lean, with vicious words. A worm in an apple, as Martha calls her… and honestly just a vile woman. With her sister, the widow seems adamant to get Martha and her father gone, so are showed as awful, bitter, twisted old women with nothing better to do. They’re our villains, without doubt. To be honest, the whole town is, but they’re at the lead. The widow’s son, Jacob, starts just as bad, but then tries to become more than his upbringing, and is shown as such. We grow to like him, and the portrayal definitely shifts to one of fondness. Seeing the world through a young woman’s eyes, constantly fluctuating while trying to be good, isn’t an easy task on a good day, add the setting and language, and you have quite the job – one the author has commanded wonderfully. I never once doubted the realism, which is vital in historical novels, and the one key fact I’d take from this review. Pacing wise, this was a little slow for me. I loved the imagery, and the characterization, but as this is a mosey into another person’s world, I found myself wondering what the purpose was. I wanted a clearer cut ‘here’s the plot’ moment, which I’m not totally sure I got, and a lot of that was down to the serene, stroll of the pacing. If you go into this expecting to take your time and just enjoy the scenery, it’ll be wonderful – the use of language is stunning – but do expect that stillness, and to savor a moment. For me, as someone who not only reads to write about books, but someone who loves fast paced, action packed reads, this was out of my comfort zone. I’m not going to lie, I didn’t know what I’d write for a while. That’s not a negative, far from it, I just have such a series of things I typically look for, so when something unusual crosses my path, it takes me by surprise. This did that. I’m still not sure what the plot was, and I’m not convinced I mind. I learned about a young woman’s life. I saw her story, and I loved that. Yes, for the ease of a review I’d have liked a clear cut plot, but for the experience, I wouldn’t change it.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Sherry Sharpnack

    "The Wheelright's Daughter" is set in 1570 Elizabethan England in a small village, a time of ignorance, fear, and deep suspicion of anyone who sticks out too much. Martha sticks out too much. She is too smart for her own good and can read and write. She has has a quick temper and a spiteful tongue. Her father spends his wages as a skilled maker of wheels at an ale house, leaving Martha to shift for them as best she can. Her mother died when Martha was two years old - apparently not in the way th "The Wheelright's Daughter" is set in 1570 Elizabethan England in a small village, a time of ignorance, fear, and deep suspicion of anyone who sticks out too much. Martha sticks out too much. She is too smart for her own good and can read and write. She has has a quick temper and a spiteful tongue. Her father spends his wages as a skilled maker of wheels at an ale house, leaving Martha to shift for them as best she can. Her mother died when Martha was two years old - apparently not in the way that Martha's father told her. He won't talk about her mother at all, so what Martha learns is from the very sharp-tongued next-door neighbor, who is convinced that Martha is a witch like her mother, and will hang for it. Martha only has two friends in the village, her little friend Owen and his older sister, Aggie. Is Jacob, her next-door neighbor, a friend or simply a victim of her tongue? The hillside above the superstitious town starts to groan and grumble, and a large rift opens right outside the door of Martha's cottage. Of course, this casts suspicion upon Martha and her father, not helped at all by the somewhat-hysterical Father Paul, who is always warning the town of their deep sins w/ God's deep displeasure being manifested in the very earth groaning at them. Martha has a particularly bad day w/ the townboys and throws curses at them as she runs away. Coincidentally, this would be the very night that the hillside gives in to the incessant rain and slides away, destroying the town chapel and its graveyard. Martha is trapped for hours, saved by an air pocket created by the roots of a giant yew. Owen isn't found for a couple of days, barely alive. Of course, the townspeople blame Martha for Owen's "affliction:" he is left mute and barely awake after days in an apparently coma (my word, not the townspeople's). Suspicion falls upon Martha as causing the hillside to move, disrupting the graves of the townspeople's loved ones. Is Martha a witch or not? She sure looks like one to the ignorant townfolk, especially since she was injured by the sliding hillside. Will anyone be able to save Owen? Will the local gentry, who have always been so kind to Martha and her father before, help her? Or will Martha have to resort to blackmail? The sense of dread, menace, and foreboding hanging over this story was just palpable to me as I read it. The book felt much too long, but I think that was b/c Martha kept letting her tongue get her in trouble and I just really wanted everything to resolve. The author did a great job drawing a picture of ignorance and mob lust for a scapegoat for their troubles. The incessant rain, cold, and mud just added to the picture. I was shocked that the book ended w/ a cliffhanger! IDK if there is going to be a sequel (or if there already is one? I'll have to look.) That upped my opinion of the book, honestly. And the epilogue and author's note were really interesting, as a hill in the Welsh marches really DID move during the Elizabethan era! What a great historical detail upon which to base a book about how difficult it would be to be a smart woman in those times. Four solid stars.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Yvonne

    This is a wonderful historical fiction story that is set in latter half of the 1500’s during Queen Elizabeth’s reign. This is an era of history that is rife with witchcraft accusations and the deaths of people who are seen to be practising the devil’s work. The author has created a tale around Martha, the daughter of a village wheelwright in Herefordshire. Her mother is dead and there are rumours around surrounding her and also of her death. Martha is a young woman who is a Christian and she also This is a wonderful historical fiction story that is set in latter half of the 1500’s during Queen Elizabeth’s reign. This is an era of history that is rife with witchcraft accusations and the deaths of people who are seen to be practising the devil’s work. The author has created a tale around Martha, the daughter of a village wheelwright in Herefordshire. Her mother is dead and there are rumours around surrounding her and also of her death. Martha is a young woman who is a Christian and she also makes up poultices and uses plants for their natural healing properties. While things are good then she is of use, but when things start happening suddenly the tables turn and fingers point leaving Martha to become the villagers scapegoat. The finger of blame is supported by a hellfire and brimstone vicar, he is supposedly a man of faith but he really is an odious character. While he preaches the word of God he is also using faith as a game of politics to curry favour with those higher up the ladder than himself. This is a wonderfully written story and I loved the way the author worked it. The contrasts of opinions and how they are formed without being based on facts are good, essentially if a person takes offence at a comment or a look then accusations can be made. This has some good research behind it and it has all the right feels to it. The only problem… there is a bit of a cliffhanger…arrgghhhh I want need to know what happens next, so I will be keeping my beady eye out for the next book. This is a good read and it has a slower pace that fits the time, there is a good amount of drama and I love the dynamics between the characters and the over-riding fear that comes out in their blaming and suspicions. A book I would recommend to readers who like historical fiction novels.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Jaffareadstoo

    Martha Dynely is the eponymous Wheelwright's daughter living in a small Herefordshire village in the middle years of the reign of Queen Elizabeth 1. Martha is feisty and spiky, given to bouts of unpredictability, speaks her mind with a cutting edge and doesn't suffer fools, and because of this she is treated with suspicion, not just by the villagers, but also by the minister who suspects evil around every corner and finds more than enough devilment in Martha to cause him sleepless nights. Martha' Martha Dynely is the eponymous Wheelwright's daughter living in a small Herefordshire village in the middle years of the reign of Queen Elizabeth 1. Martha is feisty and spiky, given to bouts of unpredictability, speaks her mind with a cutting edge and doesn't suffer fools, and because of this she is treated with suspicion, not just by the villagers, but also by the minister who suspects evil around every corner and finds more than enough devilment in Martha to cause him sleepless nights. Martha's knowledge of herb lore and her ability to read and write sets her apart from the rest of the village and when some unusual things start to happen, the mistrust which has always festered under the surface threatens to destroy Martha. The characters who inhabit the village below Marcle Ridge have their own petty jealousies, their peevishness towards others, and an ingrained fear of authority casts a shadow which is difficult to expunge, and even their esteemed lord in his manor is not without his own dangerous secrets. This fascinating story, written with an interesting turn of phrase, gives an authenticity to Martha's words and brings a sense of darkness to this shadowy corner of Elizabethan England. Brooding with an underlying menace and as with all stories which look at the persecution of women for witchcraft, The Wheelwright's Daughter gives us an imagined glimpse into our dark and dangerous past.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Cheryl M-M

    I'm going to say this right from the get go - the title of the book may imply a certain kind of read, but it is in fact so much more. Yes it tells the story of a convoluted romance in Elizabethan times, however it also speaks of scaremongering and profiteering in times of great unrest. Of a young woman who battles daily with the fact that being different makes her a target. Her knowledge, talents for healing, the fact she can read and write does nothing to dispel thoughtless and often dangerous r I'm going to say this right from the get go - the title of the book may imply a certain kind of read, but it is in fact so much more. Yes it tells the story of a convoluted romance in Elizabethan times, however it also speaks of scaremongering and profiteering in times of great unrest. Of a young woman who battles daily with the fact that being different makes her a target. Her knowledge, talents for healing, the fact she can read and write does nothing to dispel thoughtless and often dangerous rumours. It's historical fiction, an intricately drawn picture of distorted fear and victims of group hysteria. I really enjoyed the way Porter used the village people and their fears almost like a scythe swinging from one side to the next. Sometimes catching the crop and sometimes not. Martha doesn't comprehend the danger of gossip and the times she lives in, which when combined with her affinity to use herbs and her refusal to put up with the gossip and slurs - makes her a prime target. The herd needs someone to blame when nature makes itself known and death comes calling. Kudos to Porter for the ending. It's the kind you read, then read again. It's almost cruel to leave the reader with such uncertainty and yet simultaneously with complete certainty too. This may be the author's debut novel, but by George it certainly shouldn't be her last. Porter is a writer and a storyteller, and not everyone is both. *I received a courtesy copy*

  19. 5 out of 5

    Lori

    I would consider this a sad and haunting tale. It's sad because of the way the people acted back then towards anyone who was different or not liked for some reason or another. I think the author has done an awesome job with telling this story and even though I had trouble with some of the words I soon figured them out. I think it's fascinating that the word Goody was used as Mrs. for example. I did not like Father Paul. He's a liar, jerk and I could call him a few other things but I won't. I also I would consider this a sad and haunting tale. It's sad because of the way the people acted back then towards anyone who was different or not liked for some reason or another. I think the author has done an awesome job with telling this story and even though I had trouble with some of the words I soon figured them out. I think it's fascinating that the word Goody was used as Mrs. for example. I did not like Father Paul. He's a liar, jerk and I could call him a few other things but I won't. I also didn't like the things he did! Just terrible! I really didn't care for the ending. I hope there's more to come. It's not fair to leave the reader assuming the worst! It's amazing what fear can do. It can rob you of your common sense that's for sure! I will say this, I love history and historical events but this took top notch. A wonderful debut for a new to me author. She has done a beautiful job in bringing these characters to life. Even the bad ones. There's some places in the book that I did want to cry because of what was going on with Martha. A fabulous read that will take your mind off more pressing things from this world for a little while until you have to come back. The events in this book makes me glad I didn't live back then! My thanks goes to Netgalley for a copy of this book. I was NOT required to write a positive review and all opinions are my own.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Cathy Knight

    This is a beautifully written novel that recreates sixteenth century rural England utterly convincingly. The language is poetic, with gorgeous descriptions of the characters and place that build an immersive story and setting while being accessible and never overblown. I was completely absorbed by the characters, setting and story from the first page. I was curious about Martha and her relationships with her father, Owen, Aggie and Jacob. Martha’s tragic past and the threat in her future are also This is a beautifully written novel that recreates sixteenth century rural England utterly convincingly. The language is poetic, with gorgeous descriptions of the characters and place that build an immersive story and setting while being accessible and never overblown. I was completely absorbed by the characters, setting and story from the first page. I was curious about Martha and her relationships with her father, Owen, Aggie and Jacob. Martha’s tragic past and the threat in her future are also suggested, from the very beginning of the novel, by allusions to religious fervour and superstition as well as the dominance of the Church and gentry in the 1500s. The rest of the novel doesn’t disappoint either; the writing remains exquisite and compelling throughout because of the precise and specific language and imagery. I could feel the mud under the characters’ boots and the textures of their clothing; hear the creak of the ancient trees, and smell the candle wax and the animals’ hay. This is an impressive debut and I felt I was in the hands of a seasoned novelist. If you like literary fiction with tangible, evocative settings like those in Tracy Chevalier, Thomas Hardy, Sarah Waters or Evelyn Waugh, then you’ll enjoy this.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Karen Kingston

    Thank you to Boldwood Books for a digital review copy of this book - my thoughts are my own. This is the second book I've read recently set in Elizabethan England - the era when the Church of England had replaced Catholicism and the majority of people were unable to read. Martha, the main character is a headstrong intelligent young woman in an era when women were expected to be quiet. Her mother died when she was young, followed by her grandmother. Her father was a well respected Wheelwright who Thank you to Boldwood Books for a digital review copy of this book - my thoughts are my own. This is the second book I've read recently set in Elizabethan England - the era when the Church of England had replaced Catholicism and the majority of people were unable to read. Martha, the main character is a headstrong intelligent young woman in an era when women were expected to be quiet. Her mother died when she was young, followed by her grandmother. Her father was a well respected Wheelwright who had turned to drink to help him forget the loss of his wife. Martha has to deal with the village gossips, whilst trying to find enough food and fuel to survive. As the story evolves, she has a number of encounters with the villagers, some positive and others not. The level of detail in the story is excellent, you really get to understand how hard life was. The saddest thing is seeing how a young woman with some basic knowledge of herbs and nursing skills can be suspected of being a witch. An interesting read and an impressive debut novel.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Deborah Martin

    An excellent read Having unexplained phenomena occur during Elizabethan England, sets the stage of a young woman to be accused of witchcraft. Martha is trained in knowing herbs and how to make medicines from herbs. She also is able to read and has a position of teaching local boys reading skills. When an earthquake occurs during a night Martha was out collecting cherry bark to help her father who has taken ill. The quaking lasts a few days and results in the collapse of the village church. Martha An excellent read Having unexplained phenomena occur during Elizabethan England, sets the stage of a young woman to be accused of witchcraft. Martha is trained in knowing herbs and how to make medicines from herbs. She also is able to read and has a position of teaching local boys reading skills. When an earthquake occurs during a night Martha was out collecting cherry bark to help her father who has taken ill. The quaking lasts a few days and results in the collapse of the village church. Martha is blamed for this event and faces trial. This is an excellent book. I hope to visit the Herefordshire area to view the landscape which was changed as a result of the earthquake. My husband's family is from this area of England and we have enjoyed discussing the events. I am thrilled to have stumbled upon this book.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Jenny Woodhouse

    The Wheelwright’s Daughter is a story, set in a remote Herefordshire village in Elizabethan times. Its protagonist is a young woman who, because of her education and her healing knowledge, is suspected by villagers of witchcraft. It’s suspenseful, a good read. But it is so much more. The characters are of their own time, not transplanted from ours. The social context of a society split by the Reformation, bishop in conflict with squire is vividly brought to life, symbolised by the central image The Wheelwright’s Daughter is a story, set in a remote Herefordshire village in Elizabethan times. Its protagonist is a young woman who, because of her education and her healing knowledge, is suspected by villagers of witchcraft. It’s suspenseful, a good read. But it is so much more. The characters are of their own time, not transplanted from ours. The social context of a society split by the Reformation, bishop in conflict with squire is vividly brought to life, symbolised by the central image of a landslip which swallows up the church. The book is beautifully written too: the language is poetic and neither fake ‘old’, nor spoilt by anachronistic modern vocabulary. It is a great book and I can’t wait for the sequel.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Caroline Venables

    Martha Dynely is a girl ahead of her time, living in England in Elizabethan times. She is feisty, not subservient to boys or men, and she can read and write. She also has a knowledge of plants and herbs and their healing properties. This makes her somewhat of a enigma in those times. It made people mistrustful of her. Her father is a drunk and her mother is dead, the nature of her death sparks many a rumour in the village. The priest in the village believes Martha contains demons and wants to sav Martha Dynely is a girl ahead of her time, living in England in Elizabethan times. She is feisty, not subservient to boys or men, and she can read and write. She also has a knowledge of plants and herbs and their healing properties. This makes her somewhat of a enigma in those times. It made people mistrustful of her. Her father is a drunk and her mother is dead, the nature of her death sparks many a rumour in the village. The priest in the village believes Martha contains demons and wants to save her soul. It is a lot for a young girl to handle especially as in these times she could conceivably be considered a witch. Can she prove otherwise? This a brilliantly written novel and gives such insight into the period, I particularly liked the language used by the author. Recommended.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Kathleen Woodhouse

    This excellent debut novel stayed with me after I had finished reading it. Narrated by Martha who is a sympathetic but not always likeable protagonist, the novel leads the reader into a claustrophobic world where neighbours are suspicious and a natural disaster is viewed as evidence of supernatural influences. The novel builds to a suspenseful conclusion and leaves the reader wanting to know what will happen next. This is a beautifully written novel with a poetic quality. The dialogue is convinci This excellent debut novel stayed with me after I had finished reading it. Narrated by Martha who is a sympathetic but not always likeable protagonist, the novel leads the reader into a claustrophobic world where neighbours are suspicious and a natural disaster is viewed as evidence of supernatural influences. The novel builds to a suspenseful conclusion and leaves the reader wanting to know what will happen next. This is a beautifully written novel with a poetic quality. The dialogue is convincing and all characters are fully realised. I loved the juxtaposition of the small world of the village and the stories of individual characters with the natural and political forces that are influencing that world. I look forward to reading more from this author.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Jenni Hyatt

    This is Eleanor Porter's debut novel. It is set in a Herefordshire village after Catholicism has been banned and replaced by a puritanical Protestantism. Age-old superstitions, however, continue to flourish. The principal character is a village girl whose sharp tongue, independent spirit and ability to read antagonise some of the villagers. She grows herbs which she uses to make healing potions and has a degree of second sight. Rumours are spread about her and, when the village is struck by an ea This is Eleanor Porter's debut novel. It is set in a Herefordshire village after Catholicism has been banned and replaced by a puritanical Protestantism. Age-old superstitions, however, continue to flourish. The principal character is a village girl whose sharp tongue, independent spirit and ability to read antagonise some of the villagers. She grows herbs which she uses to make healing potions and has a degree of second sight. Rumours are spread about her and, when the village is struck by an earthquake and then a major landslide and a child becomes ill, she is attacked, accused of witchcraft and imprisoned. The novel is meticulously researched, exquisitely written and well worth buying as a permanent addition to your bookshelves.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Jessica Belmont

    The Wheelwright’s Daughter is a fantastic debut novel and I’m really looking forward to reading more from Eleanor Porter. This large cast of characters is handled really well. Many are unlikable, which was purposeful. Each character is really well rounded and written though. I’m impressed with how realistic they felt. A bit slow to start, but when it started to pick up, it was hard to put down. I think this was beautifully written. I felt as though I was transported back in time. I’m impressed with The Wheelwright’s Daughter is a fantastic debut novel and I’m really looking forward to reading more from Eleanor Porter. This large cast of characters is handled really well. Many are unlikable, which was purposeful. Each character is really well rounded and written though. I’m impressed with how realistic they felt. A bit slow to start, but when it started to pick up, it was hard to put down. I think this was beautifully written. I felt as though I was transported back in time. I’m impressed with this book and definitely recommend giving it a shot. Rating: 4/5☆ *I recieved a free copy of this book from Rachel’s Random Resources in exchange for an honest review on the blog tour. All opinions are my own and unbiased.*

  28. 4 out of 5

    Silvia Bruni

    Martha is a great heroine: spirited and gutsy, but not without her softer side, as expressed in her relationship with her young friend, Owen. The books creates a sense of a small, claustrophobic, rural community in 16th century England, in which any minor flouting of the social norms is noted and gossiped about. Which is unfortunate for Martha, as she’s a born rebel. But even she wonders – along with many of the other villagers – if she may be to blame for a series of unusual, apparently superna Martha is a great heroine: spirited and gutsy, but not without her softer side, as expressed in her relationship with her young friend, Owen. The books creates a sense of a small, claustrophobic, rural community in 16th century England, in which any minor flouting of the social norms is noted and gossiped about. Which is unfortunate for Martha, as she’s a born rebel. But even she wonders – along with many of the other villagers – if she may be to blame for a series of unusual, apparently supernatural occurrences. And it’s not long before the finger of blame is pointed at Martha and the villagers set out to exact their revenge. Febrile and involving.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Olivia Levez

    'Beautiful, vivid, and utterly immersive' Martha’s struggles for fulfilment in her village community make for a compelling read in Eleanor Porter’s powerful debut novel, The Wheelwright’s Daughter. Set against the backdrop of suspicion and change in 16th century Herefordshire, she fights to stay true to her loved ones even as the landslide known as the Wonder shifts public opinion and puts her in danger. Steeped in natural lore and descriptive detail, the writing style reminded me of Hardy. Beauti 'Beautiful, vivid, and utterly immersive' Martha’s struggles for fulfilment in her village community make for a compelling read in Eleanor Porter’s powerful debut novel, The Wheelwright’s Daughter. Set against the backdrop of suspicion and change in 16th century Herefordshire, she fights to stay true to her loved ones even as the landslide known as the Wonder shifts public opinion and puts her in danger. Steeped in natural lore and descriptive detail, the writing style reminded me of Hardy. Beautiful, vivid, and utterly immersive, this is a wonderful book, and Porter is a writer to watch.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Jane Greenwood

    A dazzling first novel. A clever and strong-minded young woman is caught in the religious and social turmoil resulting from the Reformation, intensified by powerful folklore, superstition, young love – and natural disaster. Writing beautifully about the natural world and human emotions, Eleanor Porter conjures up life in Elizabethan rural Herefordshire, with its desperate poverty, untrustworthy neighbours and unbridgeable social divides. Secrets are revealed, loyalties are tested and the suspens A dazzling first novel. A clever and strong-minded young woman is caught in the religious and social turmoil resulting from the Reformation, intensified by powerful folklore, superstition, young love – and natural disaster. Writing beautifully about the natural world and human emotions, Eleanor Porter conjures up life in Elizabethan rural Herefordshire, with its desperate poverty, untrustworthy neighbours and unbridgeable social divides. Secrets are revealed, loyalties are tested and the suspense of the story keeps us guessing Martha’s fate up to the very last page.

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