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The Forestwife Hardcover – April, 1995
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From School Library Journal
Grade 6-9?Mary de Holt, 15, runs away from her uncle's manor to avoid marrying the elderly widower he has chosen for her, and her nurse, Agnes, follows. They take refuge in the endless, forbidding forest, and Mary finds it teeming with life?wretched folk on the run, defrocked nuns, and a mysterious prophetess, among others. Local lore tells of a fearsome witch, the Forestwife, who in truth is a woman skilled in herbs and potions who provides assistance to all those desperate enough to seek it. Agnes and Mary find her, but too late; she has died, and they soon take over her role. As Mary becomes more self-sufficient and assimilated into the forest, Agnes renames her Marian. Agnes's son, an outlaw who comes to them for healing and returns their kindness with poached game and stolen goods, becomes Robin Hood. In the same way that Robin McKinley created real lives for Marian and Robin in The Outlaws of Sherwood (Greenwillow, 1988), Tomlinson uses imagined details and historical facts and settings to create a briefer, very different, but equally moving and believable story with a strong, competent heroine. In her afterword, she describes her research, the places and events linked to the legends, and the records concerning women's lives in medieval England. Plot elements involving the activities of King Richard the Lionhearted and his quarrelsome brother John give the story a place in time, while the occasional use of middle English words add to the ambiance.?Susan L. Rogers, Chestnut Hill Academy, PA
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Gr. 8-12. Using the Robin Hood legends as a springboard, Tomlinson heads deep into the heart of the forest; however, the hero of this story is not the prince of thieves, but Marian, who becomes the benevolent Green Lady of the forest. Rather than marry an elderly widower who stinks of ale, 15-year-old Marian runs away to join the forest folk, who live by their own rules. Among them is her former nurse, Agnes, whose common sense and prowess at healing have earned her the mantle of Forestwife--the wise woman people come to when they are in dire need. Agnes is also the mother of a young outlaw named Robert, whom Marian dislikes at first sight. Several recent novels, Frances Temple's The Ramsay Scallop (Booklist Books for Youth Top of the List 1994) and Karen Cushman's Catherine, Called Birdie (Books for Youth Editors' Choice 1994), offer a view of the Middle Ages from the female perspective, but Tomlinson adds a dimension by primarily populating her world with women characters, including a band of renegade nuns. Cleverly, yet subtly, the author marks the extra burdens that women had to bear in a society that was fair to few of its subjects. But this is a very personal story as well, and a voyage of discovery for Marian, who finds the mother she thought was dead and a true love in Robert. In an ending that's underplayed, Marian must forfeit her wished-for role of wife to Robert for the role of Forestwife when Agnes dies. A rich, vibrant tale with an afterword that describes how various legends were braided into the story. Ilene Cooper
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Top Customer Reviews
The names are different, as well as the back stories, time period even and events that take place. Very different from the traditional story but highly enjoyable to read all the same. A quick, beautifully-spun read.
Embodying a balance of compassion, courage, grace and true grit, these women work together, sharing their wisdom and strength, to win victories over oppression, illness, starvation, and the elements themselves, to heal others, and to heal themselves. Robin Hood and his Merry Men play a part in the plot, but generally in a more contributing fashion, working alongside or in cooperation with the able heroines, sharing equal opportunities with the women to swoop in and save the day.
In the tradition of Robin Hood, battle action and budding romances appear throughout its pages, but The Forestwife takes things one step further. If you are looking for a book with strong, capable, problem-solving female leads, or a window of insight into the realities of day-to-day medieval life (as in The Moorchild, A Door in the Wall, or The Midwife's Apprentice), this book would be well worth a try.
I agree with all the reviews on this page except one, who claims to be standing up for the Catholic Church. There were many high ranking members of the Catholic Church who were corrupt during the Middle Ages (because they had power, not because they were Catholic), otherwise the Protestent Reformation would not have happened. If anyone reads books written during that time like The Decameron by Boccaccio or The Canterbury Tales by Chaucer (which I did at a Jesuit university) you get a sense of the lives ordinary people in all walks of this society, the issues they faced, their motivations which were as complex as the lives of people today, and most importantly--that people from that time also had a proper sense of humor.
That is what is brilliant about Forest Wife. There are no false romantic notions about the Middle Ages, where damsels always need to be rescued by princes on horses. (That idea was created during the Victorian era.) Infact, because of the Black Death and the Crusades many Medieval women found themselves in positions authority in their local communities. This book is about how ordinary people deal with bad situations and find that through helping others they can build a place where they can belong. I'm glad this book doesn't doesn't shy away from difficult issues and addresses the intelligence of its young readers.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
are here blended artfully with the tale of Robin hood and Maid Marian.Read more