Newes from the Dead
1650. This is based on the true story of Anne Green, a young, naïve maidservant who is taken in by a young gentleman, Geoffrey Reade. She believes his promises of marriage, allows herself to be seduced, becomes pregnant and gives birth to a premature, stillborn child. She is charged with infanticide by Geoffrey’s furious grandfather, Sir Thomas, (Anne dares to name Geoffrey as her child’s father) and is sentenced to hang at Oxford and her body given up for dissection.
But as Anne’s corpse lies on the table awaiting dissection, a strange rattle is heard in her throat. Can she still be alive? And, if so, is this God’s way of proclaiming her innocence?
Anne has her own entry in The Dictionary of National Biography, and there is plenty of documentary evidence about her case, mainly from the medical point of view.
Mary Hooper wanted to tell Anne’s own story, and she does it in a split first-person narrative. Anne tells us about life as a scullery maid in Sir Thomas’s house and how she meets the seductive Geoffrey. Naïvety and youthful vanity lead her to spurn her other honest suitor, the blacksmith John Taylor. Then she finds herself pregnant and tragedy swiftly follows, ending on the gallows. Her story is intertwined with dream-like sequences as Anne struggles back from oblivion and wonders if she is alive or dead. Her between-life-and-death state gives her time to reflect and come to a more mature understanding of what happened.
I enjoyed this book. The subject matter—sex and violent death—is not easy to write about for young teenagers, but Mary Hooper does so honestly and unsensationally. I am sure that most girls of 12 plus will find it as gripping and poignant as I did.
For the first three chapters of the book, I didn’t think it was particularly interesting. I put off reading it for as long as possible because I thought it made no sense. When I eventually got round to reading it, I could barely put it down.
The plot is so good because the author has put so much detail into it. She explains the feelings of Anne very well; you can really feel for her. What interests me most is that it is a true story, and I think it’s very clever how Mary Hooper has put herself into the shoes of all the characters so you really feel as if they are talking. She hasn’t overloaded it with description, so your own imagination can get going, which is something I like in a book. I like the first part of the book where it flickers between the present and the past. It makes you want to find out what happens in each part of the story.
I think the book is suitable for mature 12 year olds up. If you have read any of Mary Hooper’s previous books it is very different but up to the same great standard. I thought it was an excellent book and well worth reading.
–Rachel Beggs (age 13)
English Civil War