disclosure: we were sent the item mentioned for the purpose of review
It’s not often that a book brings me to tears but that’s exactly what happened as I was reading Three: A Tale of Brave Women and the Eyam Plague by Jennifer Jenkins recently. Published earlier this year, this is a historical novel set during the time of the black death in 1665-66. Although it’s a work of fiction, the women featured did exist as does the village of Eyam in Derbyshire.
Three: A Tale of Brave Women and the Eyam Plague introduces us to three central characters who live in and around the village of Eyam. Catherine Mompesson is the wife of the newly appointed rector, an incomer with two young children. Emmott Syddall is a young woman who is part of a large village family and she is planning to get married the next summer to Rowland, a young man from a neighbouring village of Stoney Middleton. Lastly, we are introduced to Elizabeth Hancock, wife and mother who lives up at Riley Farmhouse looking down across the village of Eyam.
Although Three: A Tale of Brave Women and the Eyam Plague is a work of fiction, these three women did exist and as the story unfolds you can’t help but be taken in by the tragedy that follows the women and the village at large. It seems even more compelling when you consider the pandemic we are still trying to get to terms with in the world today.
It’s early September 1665 and George Viccars, the tailor’s assistant is dead. It would appear that a box of cloth delivered from London has brought the plague to the village and claimed its first victim. It must have been terrifying for the villagers, who would have heard of what was happening in the cities but with no idea how the plague was transmitted.
As you read Three: A Tale of Brave Women and the Eyam Plague you are totally drawn into the lives of these three women and how they try to save themselves and those they love from this deadly disease. It really is heartbreaking to read about families that were totally wiped out, that some members would be left untouched whilst they watched those they cared about being taken, and so quickly.
As the plague seems to be taking a stranglehold over the Eyam, Reverend William Mompesson and the previous Puritan minister Thomas Stanley pull together and call a village meeting. They tell the villagers that they must close themselves off from the outside world to protect the neighbouring villages and the wider population. No one will be allowed in or out of the village perimeter. Families were already burying their dead by their own houses, rather than in the church’s burial ground. It was such a brave move in a time when people just didn’t have the knowledge of infection control that we have now.
I won’t tell you what happens to each of the three women in this story, buy the book, read it, you won’t be disappointed. It’s so well written.
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