Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Book Review: Tidelands by Philippa Gregory

Pages: 448
Genre: Adult Historical Fiction
Pub. Date: August 20, 2019
Publisher: Atria
Source: Publisher for review
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Goodreads says, "Midsummer’s Eve, 1648, England is in the grip of a civil war between renegade king and rebellious parliament. The struggle reaches every corner of the kingdom, even the remote tidelands —the marshy landscape of the south coast.  Alinor, a descendant of wisewomen, trapped in poverty and superstition, waits in the graveyard under the full moon for a ghost who will declare her free from her abusive husband. Instead, she meets James, a young man on the run, and shows him the secret ways across the treacherous marsh, not knowing that she is leading disaster into the heart of her life.  Suspected of possessing dark secrets in superstitious times, Alinor’s ambition and determination mark her out from her neighbors. This is the time of witch mania, and Alinor, a woman without a husband, skilled with herbs, suddenly enriched, arouses envy in her rivals and fear among the villagers, who are ready to take lethal action into their own hands.  It is dangerous for a woman to be different."

Alinor and her children, Alys and Rob, live on Sealsea Island, which is on the southern coast of England. It's mostly marshlands and their lives are ruled by the tides.  Alinor's husband has left months ago on a fishing expedition and never has come back. This is a problem as his livelihood is a main source of income for her family, but Alinor isn't too sad he is missing as he was abusive to her and an all around horrible guy. She has made her living working with herbs and as a midwife on the island, so her family has just made enough to get by, but they are still very poor.  Alys helps the family out by working for the Millers who run the mill and while there she meets a local boy whom she immediately falls for, but they aren't in the same social circles to say the very least.  Then there's the fact that Alinor's husband is missing; this starts a lot of gossip within the villagers; plus, many people are suspicious of Alinor, her knowledge of herbs and they are jealous of her good looks.  One night Alinor meets James, a man on the run who is disguised. Sparks fly between these two right away, but her relationship with James changes her life in so many ways.  It's a dangerous time in England currently as Cromwell has taken over and dethroned King Charles who is now exiled on the Isle of Wight.  Lines are being drawn between between the two opposing side and things are about to get serious and very complicated for Alinor and the people of Sealsea.  Philippa Gregory's Tidelands is excellent historical fiction featuring strong female characters. The book examines how dangerous it was for women who stood out from the crowd or were slightly different.

I really loved Alinor from the first page of Tidelands. She reminded me a bit of Outlander's Claire Fraser, but not as outspoken and more even tempered.  Like Claire, she was knowledgeable of herbs, delivering babies, women's problems, illnesses...you name it.  Essentially, she was the village's healer, but with this title, it brought a lot of speculation as her mother was considered a wisewoman. When people don't understand women during this time period, especially knowledgeable ones that are beautiful, they often get scrutinized and even referred to as witches.  This is a problem for Alinor despite the fact that she doesn't dabble in any supernatural stuff, even when villagers ask to! She garners attention from Sir William, the local lord, and thankfully he is able to offer her son a decent future and education.  But villagers question this relationship, especially Sir William's patronage. Nothing is for free, right?

Then there is her relationship with James in Tidelands. At first, I really liked James. The more we got to know why he is disguised and on the run, the more I became intrigued. His relationship with Alinor started off with sparks, but as she learned more about him, I decided I didn't trust him and I really didn't like his choices.  I don't want to say too much, but he truly disappointed me during the second half of the book.

Lastly, there's Alys, Alinor's daughter, in Tidelands and she proved to be an important character.  At first, her storyline was a bit derivative. Girl meets wealthier boy and boy and girl want to be with each other despite the fact that he should marry someone who has more to offer. Alys isn't meek and mild in Tidelands. She truly kept me on my toes and definitely frustrated me with her impulsive behavior, but nonetheless, she made for a very entertaining character.  She's a strong female, so I was rooting for her despite some of her questionable choices.

Be forewarned, Tidelands does start off very slowly. So slowly that I almost put the book down, but as a big fan of Gregory's novels, I knew I had to trust her and stick with it.  Thank goodness I did, because the second half of the novel is very, very good.  During the firs half of the novel, Gregory was spending a lot of time with world building and in turn, she created an excellent sense of place in the Tidelands.  It was so very well done and atmospheric.

So, if you love a good historical read in the summer, check out Tidelands. I love that Gregory is branching out from writing about historical figures and focusing on everyday women during a dangerous time period, such as the English civil war.  It really made me think out what life was like for women who could easily be considered witches just for standing out, being knowledgeable, or even upsetting a man in charge.  I can't wait to continue this series as Gregory left us with a major cliffhanger in Tidelands.

Are you a fan of Gregory's novels? Will you be checking this book out this summer? Let me know what you think in the comments below.


  1. Oh wow. A different Gregory novel! I didn't think she writes anything else but Tudor historical fiction. Lol. She does have an affinity for slow, progressing novels so if you're a fan through and through, you can almost forgive her.

    1. Yes, I definitely had to stick with it and I am so glad I did! Her new series features ordinary people, so I am excited to see where it goes. Thanks for visiting, Joy!

  2. I love Philippa Gregory, but haven't been keeping up with all her novels in recent years. I love that this one is still historical fiction, but seems quite different from her previous books.

    1. It is definitely different since it doesn't focus on historical figures. I will definitely be continuing with the series! Thanks for visiting, Angela.


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