"I cannot sleep unless I am surrounded by books."

Borges

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Forged in the Fire


Forged in the Fire
Author: Ann Turnbull
Publisher: Candlewick Press
ISBN-10: 0763631442
ISBN-13: 978-0763631444

In this thrilling sequel to No Shame, No Fear, Will and his beloved Susanna have trials aplenty to go through. It’s London in the year 1655 and Will has been disowned by his father for becoming a Quaker. Will travels to London to seek his fortune, make enough money to be able to marry Susanna and bring her to live with him. Susanna stays behind to work and wait for letters from Will, in particular the one that will tell her he’s coming for her. The letter comes but Will doesn’t and Susanna isn’t the type of girl to sit and wait when she’s worried about someone she loves.

Will’s been thrown into jail for his beliefs and is sitting in Newgate prison where the plague has struck. He eventually is taken out of the prison and sent to recover from a non-plague related illness at the home of rich Friends. When he is lucid, he finds out that his job in the bookshop where he was working no longer exists as the owner and his family all died of the plague.

Half the story is told in Will’s viewpoint, the other half in Susanna’s and I have to say I was completely captivated by this historical star crossed lover’s tale. I got caught up in the history and the horror of living in the times of the plague. There’s this scene where people are killing all the cats because they believe they carry the plague and Will’s roommate Nat sneaks in a kitten to save it.

I always love books that have great history in them, especially history I know little about. The story of Quakers in England, their persecution and trials is definitely something I now want to learn more of after reading this.

The letters are wonderful and are written with such grace and beauty of language. Here are a couple of samples of Will writing to Susanna.

"Dear heart, I write this in the evening, after work, and try to picture thee also in thy room in London, perhaps with Nat, eating hot pies from Pudding Lane (for I remember what thou told me of thy habits). As long as I hold thy image in my mind, I can believe thee safe and in good health. I know thou dare not write to me. We receive few letters now, and there are fewer travelers on the road to bring us news, but we know the pestilence still rages and has begun to spread into the country..."

"Love, don't fear if thou hear nothing from me for a while. The authorities may restrict the post -- and even if they do not, I may hesitate to write to thee for fear the carrier should be infected. Take care to steam any letters from London over boiling vinegar; we are assured it is a preventative..."


I heartily recommend Forged in the Fire and hope for another in this wonderfully different series.

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