The Straw Halter
Betsy Salden was eleven years old when she was sent into service with Mrs. Wallasey, who taught her to read and write. At fifteen she was married to George Hatton and three years later, wearing a straw halter, was taken to the market and sold to Daniel Forrester, a local farmer. She had never got on with her own family, always being made to feel an outcast and outsider, but on the death of her mother, she finally learns the reason why she was so unwanted and why her Aunt Agnes so clearly hates her.
This is a moving story set around a custom that was quite common in the 18th and 19th centuries. Divorce was difficult enough for the aristocracy and virtually impossible for the ordinary people. To solve this problem, unwanted wives were sold in the marketplace with a straw halter around their necks. The same practice was the theme of Thomas Hardy’s classic novel, The Mayor of Casterbridge. The custom was finally abolished during the Victorian age.
I enjoyed this book very much. The plot moved at a good pace, the final outcome was never obvious and the characters were well drawn. Recommended.