Book Talk: Tidelands by Philippa Gregory

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"This is Gregory par excellence. A promising start to a family saga about ordinary people."

—Kirkus Reviews

About the book

"The #1 New York Times bestselling author and “one of the great storytellers of our time” (SanFrancisco Book Review) turns from the glamour of the royal courts to tell the story of an ordinary woman, Alinor, who cannot bear to conform to the life that lies before her."

Midsummer’s Eve, 1648, England is in the grip of a civil war between renegade king and rebellious parliament. The struggle reaches every corner of the kingdom, even the remote tidelands —the marshy landscape of the south coast.

Alinor, a descendant of wisewomen, trapped in poverty and superstition, waits in the graveyard under the full moon for a ghost who will declare her free from her abusive husband. Instead, she meets James, a young man on the run, and shows him the secret ways across the treacherous marsh, not knowing that she is leading disaster into the heart of her life.

Suspected of possessing dark secrets in superstitious times, Alinor’s ambition and determination mark her out from her neighbors. This is the time of witch mania, and Alinor, a woman without a husband, skilled with herbs, suddenly enriched, arouses envy in her rivals and fear among the villagers, who are ready to take lethal action into their own hands.

It is dangerous for a woman to be different.

Reviews and What Readers Say

“A welcome topical pivot from gifted Gregory, the first entry in her promising Fairmile Series sets the stage for a multigenerational, multivolume saga about the rise of a family from rags to riches.”


“ Dynamic...History buffs and Gregory’s fans alike will be anticipating the next installment.”

Publishers Weekly

“ I always look forward to a Philippa Gregory book and this was no exception. It was a slow read for me until the exciting finish but it is the first book of the series and I think Gregory spent a lot of time laying the groundwork. She envisions a long series like the [book:The Forsythe Saga|29120861] so she wanted a good foundation.

Set in 1648 during the English Civil War, Alinor is a poor woman, and I do mean poor, who is raising her two children after her fisherman husband sailed out one day and never returned. She is in limbo not knowing if her husband is dead or alive. She is a midwife and sells herbs walking a thin line of not being considered a witch. Her daughter, Alys, has her eye set on marrying the son of a local farmer who owns his own land.

One night Alinor meets James who is going to work for the local Lord. He is full of dangerous secrets including being a spy for King Charles I who is imprisoned by the Parliament. He secures a position for her son, Rob, as a companion for the Lord's son. The change in fortune brings out the gossips in town and the whispers of witch float around.As events bring about the wedding of Alys, climatic revelations bring major changes and confrontations for the family. It's a cliff hanger ending nicely setting up Book 2. The history of the times is quite interesting and well researched and I can't wait to see what happens to Alinor next.”


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Philippa Gregory is the author of many New York Times bestselling novels, including The Other Boleyn Girl, and is a recognized authority on women’s history. Many of her works have been adapted for the screen including The Other Boleyn Girl. Her most recent novel, The Last Tudor, is now in production for a television series. She graduated from the University of Sussex and received a PhD from the University of Edinburgh, where she is a Regent. She holds honorary degrees from Teesside University and the University of Sussex. She is a fellow of the Universities of Sussex and Cardiff and was awarded the 2016 Harrogate Festival Award for Contribution to Historical Fiction. She is an honorary research fellow at Birkbeck, University of London. She founded Gardens for the Gambia, a charity to dig wells in poor rural schools in The Gambia, and has provided nearly 200 wells.

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