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Published by Bethany House October 2010/384 pages/Historical Fiction/Puritan/England
Oliver Cromwell died in 1658, he had been the Protestant Puritan leader in England since 1653. During his reign to be a Puritan was safe, but after his death and others came in control religious tolerance was null.
The book begins in May 1659 and Oliver Cromwell is living (I was a little confused about the difference in dates till the author explained that she took liberties with them).
Elizabeth Whitbread is a young woman living with her family in Bedfordshire, England. She is present at the birth of a baby boy named Thomas Costin. Thomas' mother died and he is in need of a wet nurse. Elizabeth finds only 1 woman that can help, but the "Cruella de vil"--Mrs. Grew finds this woman dirty and depraved. Elizabeth does not wish the baby to suffer and starve to death. Mrs. Grew had decided it would have been best to just leave the baby alone, he can't be helped. Elizabeth's kind heart and devotion to this baby leads her to a new life in caring for him and his siblings. John Costin their father is busy reading and studying the Bible for his sermons, and needs a woman to care for his children.
Between the strict Puritan community and the enemies of the Puritan's the story has more drama to it than just a love story and I loved that!
I know little about the Puritan's. I've read 2 books on them, this book was the second and it is fiction. This has kindled in me a desire to read more books on the Puritan's and early America.
It was such a breath of fresh air to read about a female character that is "neither plain but pleasant, blends in to the crowd." She is a character I can relate to, she is just like the majority of women. It does seem that often female characters are made up to be rather like a Disney character: rosy cheeked and pouty mouthed and luscious locks (I'm thinking of Snow White).
Instead the emphasis on Elizabeth Whitbread is her inner beauty and character.
I thought about this characterization of Elizabeth and it would not have fit well to have a Puritan woman look as what I described earlier. Puritan's did not like displays of ostentatiousness.
Mrs. Grew is a character that represents those in the Puritan community that are hard, critical, judgmental. She is a depiction of any person in the Church that lives out their life in a Pharisaic approach.
I enjoyed reading about how the people lived during this time period. I felt (remember I am not an expert on this time period) that the author did a wonderful job in creating the scene of this time period. I felt that she must have done much research.
Thank you to Bethany House and Open Book for my free copy for reading/reviewing.