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The Minister's Daughter (Aesop Accolades (Awards)) Hardcover – May 17, 2005

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 7 Up–In 1645, England is plunged into a Civil War pitting Puritans against Royalists, and is swept by a craze of witch-hunting, targeting women who practice healing arts drawn from ancient lore. Hearn intertwines the stories of three girls in one village. Two are daughters of the new minister, a man who fulminates against the old pagan ways, and Nell, who is the granddaughter of the local cunning woman. Because the elderly woman is failing in mind and body, Nell must quickly learn her skills and lore, including midwifery to humans and fairies. Meanwhile Grace, the minister's beautiful elder daughter, pregnant by a lad who runs away to be a soldier, draws her sister Patience into a conspiracy to blame her condition on witchcraft practiced by Nell and her grandmother. Caught up in Grace's hysteria, the villagers dunk the old woman in a pond and condemn Nell to hang. Chapters set in 1645 are written in third-person, present tense, and alternate with adult Patience's first-person, past tense, which readers later learn is her testimony during the Salem, MA, witch trials of 1692. These varied perspectives allow readers to penetrate lies and concealment. While piskies and fairies provide an element of fantasy that contributes to surprising plot twists, the novel is best described as entertaining historical fiction, paying tribute to wise, unconventional women whose skills come from an understanding of the natural world, not from supernatural powers. Engaging characters and a palpable sense of place combine with an accessible, clear style to make this a satisfying read.–Margaret A. Chang, Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, North Adams
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Gr. 7-10. British writer Hearn investigates "human life at risk and in the raw" in this skillfully constructed novel of seventeenth-century England. When a May Day tryst leaves the Puritan minister's daughter in a delicate condition, village healer Nell refuses to terminate the pregnancy because folk wisdom reveres such "merrybegot" babies. Thenceforth the pregnant girl and her younger sister, with the tacit support of their scandal-averse father, supplement sickroom theatrics with distortions that incriminate Nell and her senile grandmother as consorts of Satan. The theme of girlish grudges escalating to mass hysteria will be familiar to many readers of Arthur Miller's The Crucible, and, indeed, earn posits a surprising link between Nell's story and the Salem witch trials. A nick-of-time rescue from the gallows feels contrived, and, at times, switches from realistic scenes to episodes involving pixies and fairies are jarring. But many readers will be drawn into the backdrop of pagan traditions and benign charms ("How to Calm a Truculent Pig") and savor the indignation triggered by an earlier era's subversively powerful "mean girls." Jennifer Mattson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 12 and up
  • Lexile Measure: 860L (What's this?)
  • Series: Aesop Accolades (Awards)
  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Ginee Seo Books; 1st Us Edition edition (May 17, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0689876904
  • ISBN-13: 978-0689876905
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 9.2 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,890,365 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Teen Reads on June 28, 2005
Format: Hardcover
In the year 1645, England was torn in two, caught between the warring factions of the Royalists and the Parliamentarians. The people, particularly those who still lived in rural areas, were also torn between the old ways (those of pagan ritual and superstition) and the new ways (those of rationality, order, and a particularly austere form of Christianity). Julie Hearn's tremendous new novel, THE MINISTER'S DAUGHTER, vividly embodies these conflicts in the deeply personal story of two young women from opposite sides of the divide.

Nell is the granddaughter of the local cunning woman. Nell herself is a Merrybegot, a child conceived on Mayday, one of the most magical festivals of the year. Part healer, part midwife, part wise woman, Nell's grandmother feels the change in the air and, fearing for her own sanity as well as for her ability to continue practicing her arts in the changing political and religious environment, eagerly apprentices Nell to her craft. Soon enough, Nell is ministering not only to laboring human women and to flatulent men but also to piskies and other magical creatures, one of whom recognizes her as a chosen Merrybegot and rewards her with a gift more precious than anything she could have imagined.

Grace, on the other hand, is the older daughter of the village's Puritan minister. Virtuous, devout and submissive, Grace is nothing like wild, bold Nell. Smitten with a handsome local boy, Grace soon finds herself pregnant with her own Merrybegot. Desperate to hide her pregnancy from her authoritarian father, she convinces her naïve younger sister Patience that her condition is the result of witchcraft practiced by Nell and her grandmother. Soon the villagers, torn between loyalty to the past and fear of the unknown, don't know whom to trust.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Luan Gaines HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on August 17, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Early in 17th century England, the country is beset by civil war, the old religion at odds with the Puritanism that is sweeping the land. The old ways smack of superstition and an untoward reverence for pagan feasts and celebrations. The Puritans want none of the trappings of such a religion, sure that Satan has a hand in excessive merrymaking and frolicking on Sundays. In one small village Nell, the village cunning woman's granddaughter and Grace, the minister's daughter, are about to act out the scourge that will spread throughout the country, an accusation of witchcraft that sets off a firestorm of hangings of the accused.

Grace is carefully observed by her strict Puritan father, but she is young and headstrong, running off with a young man on the first day of May, the birthday reserved for Merrybegots, children that are sacred to nature. Grace views the consequences of her actions as impossible, begging the plain Nell for help. As the village cunning woman's protégé, Nell is trained in the healing arts, learning all she can before the old woman's mind shatters completely. Nell herself is a Merrybegot, born from the May Day celebrations. She informs Grace that she cannot help her and a feud is born, one in which Grace holds all the power in a class-conscious society. Desperate to avoid her father's ire, Grace begins throwing fits to avoid anyone learning her secret, drawing her less-attractive sister, Patience, into the infernal chaos that develops. Over time, to avoid the reality of her impulsive judgment come to fruition, Grace accuses Nell of witchcraft. And who will doubt a minister's daughter?
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Jessica Lux on March 25, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I read a lot of YA fiction, but when I picked this one up, I didn't notice that it was a "teen read," and there is no reason for it to have an age-limited audience.

Hearn's novel (her first to be published in the United States) can be viewed as a prelude to the well-known witch hysteria of colonial Salem, MA. The Minister's Daughter is set in 1645 England, during the English Civil War. When the minister's daughters start speaking in tongues and spitting pins, all while the elder daughter's belly grows suspiciously larger, suspicion falls on the village healers. The healers, or cunning women, are a grandmother and her granddaughter, Nell, who fix herbal remedies for the village in exchange for donations of food and supplies.

The story of the countryside witch hysteria is told from both the healer girl Nell's point of view and from a retrospective confessional by the younger of the minister's daughters. Nell's world is filled with miniature troublemakers/watchers in the form of piskies, as well as interactions with faeries. She is desperately trying to learn the spells and potions of her grandmother as the elderly lady's mental agility starts to decline. The minister's younger daughter, Patience, is naive in the ways of the world and often deemed slow by the villagers. Patience doesn't fully catch on to the strange ministrations going on in her own house until it is much too late.

Hearn's novel closes with an informative author's note and suggested reading about the reality of the English royalty, the famed witch hunter Matthew Hopkins, the folklore of the English countryside, and the hysteria of the time. Prepare to be transported several centuries back, to a magical and mad place, by this touching novel.
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