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Accidents of Providence Hardcover – February 14, 2012

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Editorial Reviews Review

Stacia Brown on Accidents of Providence

Accidents of Providence had its beginnings in a Thanksgiving dinner argument. I had accepted an invitation to a turkey potluck at a friend’s house, and one of the guests, a psychologist, learned that I liked historical fiction. Immediately she urged me to quit the habit. She swore that any fictional attempt to depict a working-class seventeenth-century woman was doomed to failure because women of that era did not have inner lives, did not have time to contemplate their world, did not have the luxury to be complicated. They were too busy being chattel, this psychologist said, too busy eking out a bare-bones living. I disagreed, but she won the argument. Frustration turned to determination, and soon I found myself starting work on a story about ordinary tradeswomen possessed of extraordinary courage who lived and worked in London during the civil wars.

About halfway through my second or third draft of the novel I realized I could not imagine the interior world of Rachel Lockyer, my main character, without also exploring the exterior landscape of women’s friendships. Accidents of Providence is a love story, but it is also, or even primarily, a story about relationships between women. What are the ethics of female friendship? Of motherhood? Are we called to hold our closest friends morally accountable? Or should we simply stand by each other’s side when things fall apart? What happens when our best friends fail us?

As an exploration of women’s friendships, Accidents of Providence also grapples with the telling and the keeping of secrets. Today we live in such a tell-all, confessional society that we have almost forgotten what it feels like to stay silent, to ponder something difficult or personal in private. Accidents of Providence tries to explore what is both gained and lost when a woman chooses to remain silent, chooses not to speak, at the critical moment.


"Dangerous Liaisons: A 17th century heroine for our times...[A] delightfully seditious heroine...Brown introduces a wonderful cast of supporting characters.... For all its period detail, this debut seems remarkably modern in its depiction of love and politics—proof that a historical novel can be educational and entertaining, and nothing like homework."
O, The Oprah Magazine

"A heart-poundingly vivid, intellectually provocative account. . . A romping good read that is character-driven yet intellectually provocative on issues of law, religion and morality—historical fiction at its best."
Kirkus, STARRED review

"Debut novelist Brown has woven an absorbing tale...her story reveals a rich knowledge of the era with memorable characters, sharp, period-worthy dialog, and a poignant love story...This is the best kind of historical fiction—a combination of love story and murder mystery, wtih a sprinkling of intriguing historical snippets and wonderful writing."
Library Journal, STARRED review

"Intelligent, masterful, suspenseful—one of the best books I've read in years. An impressive debut novel from a hugely talented new writer, Accidents of Providence was a rare treat."
—Margaret George, author of many works of historical fiction, including Mary Queen of Scotland and the Isles

"With this marvelous story written in searing prose, Stacia Brown brings us a deeply human, super-smart, uncommonly well-researched historical novel. Accidents of Providence tackles hypocrisy, both sexual and political, and invites us into the revolutionary taverns and chaotic courtrooms of civil-war-torn London, introducing us to the faithful and adulterous, the idealists and opportunists, of an era not so unlike our own. Don't miss it!"
—Sheri Holman, author of The Dress Lodger, among others

"Stacia Brown's debut novel, Accidents of Providence, richly illuminates an important but little known period of history: that of the English Leveller society. Wonderfully detailed and keenly researched, it is a moving portrait of a courageous woman caught between a disastrous affair with a charismatic revolutionary and the draconian laws of the land that would put her to death because of it."
—Kathleen Kent, author of The Heretic's Daughter

"Accidents of Providence is historical fiction at its best. It is absolutely steeped in atmosphere and so vividly re-creates the interregnum era that I felt as though I'd been transported there. Brown's prose has a beautiful originality. Her characters come alive with authenticity and humanity; they are loveable and infuriating, but the reader always believes in them, and invests hopes and fears with them. The story kept me gripped from the very first page—by turns desperately sad, funny, and heartwarming. It is a breath of fresh air. I loved it!"
—Katherine Webb, author of The Legacy

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; First Edition, 1st Printing edition (February 14, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0547490801
  • ISBN-13: 978-0547490809
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (58 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,476,955 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Free2Read on December 26, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
When we read historical fiction, we have expectations: to learn about the era and place, to take a personal journey in that time with characters we care about, and to come away with a sense of knowing more than we did before reading the book. We also expect to be entertained.

Five stars to Stacia M. Brown for her work in "Accidents of Providence." It satisfies on every level.

Rachel Lockyer lives in Cromwell's England. The king has been beheaded and replaced by Puritan zealots. Rachel, a glove maker, finds herself in love with a most unlikely man, an older man, a father to fourteen previous children. She deludes herself into thinking her frivolous affair with him cannot result in a child, which can be a death sentence as a "lewd woman," especially if anything goes wrong during the pregnancy.

Everything goes wrong during the pregnancy. She hides the infant's corpse. She is found out and imprisoned. The English trial by a "jury of her peers" is a parliament of fools gathered to enjoy the show.

Along the way, from discovery through sentencing and a very surprising ending, Brown gives us the details of a country that has gone mad with the common touch. Spies abound, punishments are fierce, and the gutters of the street run with offal and manure. Brown weaves in details of the dog skinning business (horrific) as well as the shrewish wife, the good wife, and the presence of a few good men. The book flows from one perfect passage to the next: "the next generation of investigators. . . waiting. . . to leap onto his desk, empty his shelve, claim his life's work,. . .planting their shiny boots in the face of the old days, of the old giants who had fallen."

Well-written, well-researched, well-plotted. Brown delivers what we expect and then some in this work.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Bonnie Brody TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on December 15, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Accidents of Providence by Stacia M. Brown is an interesting novel set in London in the mid-1600's. England is fraught with political turmoil as different parties fight for power while the country is at war. There are the diggers, levelers, Cromwell supporters as well as dissonance between the various religions - puritans, Catholics, Anglicans, Calvinists, protestants, and Huguenots. The author is very good at portraying the ambience of London at the time - the crowded streets, the stench of unwashed bodies and filth in the streets, the poverty, turmoil and chaos.

The story is about Rachel, a glove-maker's assistant who finds herself pregnant and unmarried. The father is Walwyn, a married man with fourteen children of his own. There was a law passed in 1624 called `An Act to Prevent the Destroying and Murdering of Bastard Children'. Basically, any unwed mother alleged to have killed her child is to be shall be tried and put to death. Rachel gives birth to her child and havoc ensues.

After Rachel gives birth she is seen by her boss carrying a bundle and burying it. Her boss follows Rachel without her knowledge and digs up the bundle which turns out to be a little girl. Rachel's boss confronts her with her findings and reports her to the authorities. A trial begins and Rachel's life is at stake.

There is a LOT of history in this book, too much for my taste. It seemed as though the author used her dissertation and documents from the times as fill-in for a lot of the story. The real meat of the story, for me, was the love affair between Rachel and Walwyn, the trial and the outcome. The history was too complicated and didn't really add much to the story other than the information about the laws pertaining to `bastard children'.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Susan Morris on September 10, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I won't include a summary as to the story since that is well covered elsewhere. For this review I will simply detail my response to the book.

The 17th century is a fascinating time in Anglo-American history, with the threads of religion, politics, a changing legal system, and a growing philosophical recognition of the value of the individual tangling together in interesting ways that affect us still today. 'Accidents of Providence' contains all these elements and so I was anticipating an absorbing read from beginning to end.

Of course, any story that deals with sex, murder, religion and politics has an automatic leg-up on being interesting. Check out any current newspaper or magazine--we are fascinated by these things. Stacia Brown chose her subject matter well. I like that she works to present a potentially lurid story from a different point of view, touching on religion and providing a framework to discuss the conflicting views of 'providence', a subject that Christian sects are still arguing about today. It is not a 'Christian' book, but the characters are driven by their various Christian world views.

Unfortunately, in 'Accidents of Providence', despite the interesting premise, the story itself falls short, using very little of the rich language of the period and only skimming over the historical setting. There are some religious and philosophical discussion by the various characters during the story, but I never really felt that I was gaining much insight into the 17th century mind, or even getting to know the main character Rachel at all.

At a reading by the author that I recently attended, Ms. Brown mentioned that she had struggled to make the accused murderess a sympathetic character and I believe that she still has a ways to go to achieve it.
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