- Series: The Meonbridge Chronicles (Book 1)
- Paperback: 270 pages
- Publisher: Silverwood Books (November 7, 2016)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1781325820
- ISBN-13: 978-1781325827
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.6 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 13.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #5,155,843 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Fortune's Wheel: The First Meonbridge Chronicle (The Meonbridge Chronicles) Paperback – November 7, 2016
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About the Author
Carolyn Hughes was born in London, but has lived most of her life in Hampshire. After completing a degree in Classics and English, she started her working life as a computer programmer, in those days a very new profession. But it was when she discovered technical authoring that she knew she had found her vocation. She spent the next few decades writing and editing all sorts of material, some fascinating, some dull, for a wide variety of clients, including an international hotel group, medical instrument manufacturers and the government. She has written creatively for most of her adult life, but it was not until her children grew up and flew the nest several years ago that writing historical fiction, took centre stage in her life. She has a Master's in Creative Writing from Portsmouth University and a PhD from the University of Southampton. 'Fortune's Wheel' is her first published novel.
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Top customer reviews
Set in the 14th Century, Meonbridge has been ravished by the Great Plague, or Mortality. With half of its inhabitants meeting a painful demise at the hands of the plague, many find themselves mourning the death of their loved ones, with entire families often being wiped out. Alice atte Wode is one such villager who has lost much. Not only has she lost family members to the plague, but the mysterious disappearance of her daughter Agnes has left her in her own personal purgatory, unable to mourn for her daughter, unsure whether she is in fact also dead. Agnes is sure that those at the Manor know more about the strange disappearance of her daughter than they are admitting to. But, how does someone like Alice and indeed her son John, now under the employ of Sir Richard question the master and his family?
With life starting to return to semi normality after the plague has stripped families of loved ones, there is much unrest between the villagers and the Lord of the Manor. The workers want a fair days pay for a days work and time to tend to their own land. However, Sir Richard refuses to listen to the pleas of his people and the counsel of his wife and the villagers and labourers threaten to revolt, which will leave the harvest to rot and not enough food for anyone unless matters can be resolved. And, all through this, Alice is trying to find the answers she seeks. She is supported in her quest by her son and her friend Eleanor, who was my favourite character!
There are lots of great little sub-plots woven into the story and the reader is given the opportunity to find out a little bit more of the back stories of the other characters in the book. Each told a story of love, loss, insurmountable grief and bravery. It also told a tale of what life was like during this particular period and plague or no plague life was pretty damn hard, with workers afforded little rights to the lands they worked and many living in poverty.
The main vein throughout the book was the incredible strength of the female characters which is ironic given that at that time women and their opinions and wishes were not considered by their male counterparts. As well as a really entertaining read, the book provided me with invaluable insight into this period in history. Of course there were items and other things in the book that I did have to go and look up the meaning of but that was ok. It just gave the story more credibility and screamed out that Carolyn Hughes very obviously had done her research. This was a book that I really enjoyed and for those lovers of historical fiction I'd recommend you grab yourself a copy and get lost in an altogether different time.
So what was life like in 1349? Bubonic plague had just swept through Britain, and Meonbridge lost at least half of its residents. The village was overseen by Lord and Lady de Bohun of the manor, who owned lands rented to tenants. I was very interested to learn that the village consisted of a mix of villeins (peasant farmers legally tied to the manor), cottars (lowest form of peasant) and freemen and women. There was also the miller and blacksmith. The author showed us how the villagers were expected to pay the manor rents for land, businesses and death duties. They were also expected to work for the manor; boon work, giving time freely to bring in the harvest. During the week they would do ploughing, hedging etc. The manor in turn provided housing, a court to oversee disputes, and elected men to carry out duties within the village: a reeve, a bailiff and constables.
There was a large cast of characters which at times were hard to keep track of. However, the main story weaving its way back and forth is about the mysterious disappearance of Agnes atte Wode. Agnes is the daughter of Alice, a villein friend of Lady Margaret de Bohun and well respected village woman. Her son, John, is held back from searching for Agnes by his new appointment of village reeve. Both John and Alice are sure the Lord’s children knew more about the disappearance of Agnes that was first thought.
A second strong theme runs through the story, that of the potential for a peasants' revolt. There were now fewer people to work the land, the workers were needed for longer hours to fulfil the jobs. There were calls for higher wages and or land offered to the cottars to farm. Both the bailiff and the Lord were against this, quoting laws from the King to cap wages, but with few “free” farmers in the country to invite to the manor lands, a stalemate occurred. Unlike today, when most of us can change our jobs as and when we please, in medieval times peasants were “tied” to the manor of the village they were born into, the law forbidding them to leave.
I liked this story, as it covered a time period where less is known about the everyday life of ordinary people; it created a picture in a way a modern reader could understand. There was a fair bit of medieval terminology, most of which I could make a reasonable guess at and, because I was interested, I didn’t mind confirming the definitions later. There is also a list of characters at the beginning of the book to help with the large cast. The storyline does have drama and a satisfactory ending, but for me the interest was more in the everyday life of the characters and the way they lived in this period of history.
Set during a time when the plague wiped out entire families, this book was somewhat emotional in places. A village community devastated by personal grief, as well as the loss of important tradesman and vital knowledge. Having to use the local butcher to deal with a badly broken leg is not the ideal scenario for anyone.
This book was visually descriptive, atmospheric and felt authentic. I was taken back in time to a place where death devastated generations of families, work related hazards were overwhelming, and people were struggling with starvation, due to lack of people well enough to work and harvest food or tend to their livestock.
Fortune’s Wheel is very much a character led novel, filled with a great mix of strong characters, especially the women, so if you enjoy historical fiction led by a variety of well-developed characters, entwined with death and murder this may be the book for you.
'...a promising novel from a debut author. Being set in a fascinating period and centring around some engaging characters... for an insight into a different-to-the-norm period this is a story worth reading as it is obvious that the author knows her period very well.'