The Familiars by Stacey Halls
Fleetwood Shuttleworth is 17 years old, married, and pregnant for the fourth time. But as the mistress at Gawthorpe Hall, she still has no living child, and her husband Richard is anxious for an heir. When Fleetwood finds a letter she isn¹t supposed to read from the doctor who delivered her third stillbirth, she is dealt the crushing blow that she will not survive another pregnancy.
When she crosses paths by chance with Alice Gray, a young midwife, Alice promises to help her give birth to a healthy baby, and to prove the physician wrong.
When Alice is drawn into the witchcraft accusations that are sweeping the North-West, Fleetwood risks everything by trying to help her. But is there more to Alice than meets the eye?
As the two women’s lives become inextricably bound together, the legendary trial at Lancaster approaches, and Fleetwood¹s stomach continues to grow. Time is running out, and both their lives are at stake.
Only they know the truth. Only they can save each other.
After reading Mrs England I really wanted to read more of Stacey Halls’ work and thankfully I remembered I had The Familiars on one of my many TBR piles. When I started reading this I struggled to get into it to start with as it didn’t seem to hook me in like Mrs England had but once I was about a third of the way in I couldn’t put the book down.
This book is based on the real Pendle witch trials that happened in 1612 and the characters are named after real life characters from that period but the story is devised by Stacey Halls.
Fleetwood is the main character in this book and to start with she comes across as rather immature and a little bit spoiled but as the book goes on you see her grow up and become a strong woman. It is just sad that the reason she grows up so quickly is because of the blows that life throws at her during this book.
Alice is Fleetwood’s first real friend and her midwife. She is also Fleetwood’s only hope to bring into the world a healthy baby and keep her own life. Alice is a lovely character and clearly a woman who knows her own mind, she is intelligent and knows the way to help people medically with the items available for the time period. She is also lost and needs someone to be her friend and fight her corner.
Richard is Fleetwood’s husband and to be honest I did not like him. He gives Fleetwood more freedom than most women would have had in the 1600’s but it also seems to come with a price. He comes across as vain and rather big headed.
The story is really about strong women who are not understood by men and so they are punished because of it. It shows just how tough life was for a woman in the 1600’s and that even wealthy women were not well treated at times. I really enjoyed this book but I did struggle at the beginning so I am giving this book 4 out 5 Dragons.
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About the author
Stacey Halls grew up in Rossendale, Lancashire, as the daughter of market traders. She has always been fascinated by the Pendle witches. She studied journalism at the University of Central Lancashire and moved to London aged 21. She was media editor at The Bookseller and books editor at Stylist.co.uk, and has also written for Psychologies, the Independent and Fabulous magazine, where she now works as Deputy Chief Sub Editor. The Familiars is her first novel.