Plague-widow Alice atte Wode is desperate to find her missing daughter, but her neighbours are rebelling against their masters and their mutiny is hindering the search.
June 1349. In a Hampshire village, the worst plague in England’s history has wiped out half its population, including Alice atte Wode’s husband and eldest son. The plague arrived only days after Alice’s daughter Agnes mysteriously disappeared, and it prevented the search for her.
Now the plague is over, the village is trying to return to normal life, but it’s hard, with so much to do and so few left to do it. Conflict is growing between the manor and its tenants, as the workers realise their very scarceness means they’re more valuable than before: they can demand higher wages, take on spare land, and have a better life. This is the chance they’ve all been waiting for.
Although she understands their demands, Alice is disheartened that the search for Agnes is once more put on hold. When one of the rebels is killed, and then the lord’s son is found murdered, it seems the two deaths may be connected, both to each other and to Agnes’s disappearance.
I was intrigued by the sound of this book, as I remember learning about the plague while I was at primary school and was fascinated by it. I remember decorating oranges with cloves, as they were used to disguise the smell of death in the streets and houses. I honestly cannot imagine how awful it must have been to be alive during that time. That’s if you stayed alive, of course. It must have been truly horrific!
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.
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