Saturday 10 August 2013

Newes From the Dead, by Mary Hooper

Newes From the Dead, by Mary Hooper
Published by Totally Random Books

In 1650 Anne Green, a young servant girl, gave birth prematurely to an illegitimate child. Sadly the baby died and poor Anne was falsely accused of infanticide. In front of a large crowd she was hanged and then carried to the College of Physicians to be dissected for medical science. But as Anne's corpse lay on the table and the doctors assembled, a strange rattle was heard in her throat. Could she still be alive?
First off, sorry for the lateness of this post - I meant to do it for last week, but haven't been too well, and writing was the last thing on my mind! The history post will be published tomorrow as I've been thinking that the posts get a little too long both with a review and history!

I stumbled across the blurb of this book while looking at the Totally Random Books website. It's really intriguing and, as I read around, I could see that the book is based on a true story. That was it, I had to buy it! It didn't disappoint, and I read it in a day.

While this is a YA book, it's worth pointing out that it deals with some really adult themes, which is something to consider if you're thinking of letting a teenager read it. I'll outline the main points in the next paragraph, so if you don't want any spoilers at all, skip this bit. The chapters flick between the events that led up to Anne's hanging, and what happens while she's laid on the dissecting table, apparently dead. Her downfall comes when the master's grandson promises her the world in exchange for him getting his end away, shall we say. As tends to happen, she becomes pregnant, which she manages to keep a secret until she miscarries. She has the 'audacity' to tell people who the father was, so never receives a fair trial, and is sentenced to death by hanging for the murder of her child. Her sentence is carried out, but she regains consciousness while on the dissecting table. However, she's unable to move a muscle, even to scream.

Anne is a nice girl with a promising, if humble, future, and I liked her. Even while I was willing her not to trust the father of her child, I could understand why she did what she did, and I felt really sorry for her as she lost a lot. The events of both storylines were fascinating, and in the dissection chapters I was constantly willing the doctors to notice what was going on. Although I knew they wouldn't cut into her and it was a little drawn out, some parts got quite tense, which I liked.

Being a sucker for history, I really liked the way everything was portrayed. Mary Hooper, the author, made me realise how important it was in how you were perceived in those times - if you think gossip can be bad now, it was a million times worse in 1650, when holding someone's hand, even for an innocent reason, can potentially start a deadly rumour. I thought the book brought across everything that would have happened at the time really accurately and realistically. I know the author had true events to go on, but Anne's life before her hanging was all imagined. There's a note from Hooper at the end that specifies what records say about what happened to Anne Green after her hanging, which is also really interesting. I'll definitely be checking out more of Hooper's books!

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