It’s a quick read, though not a comfortable one. Prejudice and hatred are simmering beneath the rock strewn and inhospitable Promised Land. The characters, flung into the wilds of a New World, are on the knife’s edge between survival and destruction.
In her historically-inspired novel, Nesbit reminds the reader that early ships brought not only Puritan colonists but also slaves, indentured servants and tradespeople. Not everyone was there to escape persecution. The book explores the tensions between the religious zealots and the workaday farmers and carpenters.
Through alternating narratives, the reader can imagine the feelings of each character as they say their piece. Alice Bradford, wife of Governor William Bradford, is refined and self-assured on the outside, but it quickly becomes clear that she has the same doubts as anyone. Eleanor Billington transforms into a Lady MacBeth character, this time encouraged by desperation rather than greed.
I came to see that the threat we feared was not the Wampanoag — William’s treaty negotiations had been long-standing — or the unknowns beyond the colony’s fences. Instead, the threat would always be those within our colony. ~Pg. 211
Each person has their own voice and the author does an admirable job of juxtaposing inequities – a contributing member of the colony going hungry while newcomers are treated to a feast, for example.
Nesbit’s historical fiction novel reminded me of The VVitch. Throughout, something is just not quite right, though it’s hard to put your finger on it. It also highlights the reality that most people live in the uncertain grey area and things are rarely as simple as they seem.
My thanks to Bloomsbury for the review copy.
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Hardcover: 288 pages
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing (March 17, 2020)