Thursday, February 19, 2009


Newes From the Dead by Mary Hooper
4Q 3P; Audience: J/S

The freaky thing about this book is that it's based on a true story.

Imagine being a servant in 1651. Someone in your class has very little protection. The legal system, such as it is, is not on your side. You also haven't much chance of changing your lot in life. So when the heir to the estate tells you that he loves you and wants to marry you, believing him is tempting, even when your mind knows better. And if you believe, then is it really so bad to give in and give yourself to the man who can give you so much in return?

In the case of Anne Greene, saying yes was a seriously bad decision. She wound up pregnant and discovered far too late that everything she'd been told was a pack of lies. He didn't care for her, and he certainly had no intention of marrying her. She tried to hide the pregnancy, but she couldn't hide the evidence when the baby is stillborn. The circumstances were ripe for a charge of infanticide. What a tidy way for the man's family to get rid of Anne for good. For killing her baby, Anne was sentenced to be hanged by the neck until dead. And she was hanged. And she was declared dead. Her body was then given to doctors so their students could dissect her body for medical study.

The problem was, she wasn't dead.

The story is told from both Anne's point of view and that of Robert, one of the medical students. Yes, I've told you some of Anne's story already. But I haven't told it all. It was chilling to read her part of the story knowing that the first incision is only moments away. Did they make that first cut? When did the doctors discover that she was alive? What was her reaction when she realized where she was and what was about to happen? What was it like to be one of those medical students at a time when people knew so little about the human body? What went through his mind? And most of all, how did Anne's life change when she literally came back from the dead in a time when superstition and religion held sway and science was in its infancy?

No comments:

Post a Comment

Agree? Disagree? Something you'd like to say in response? Feedback is welcome! Just keep it on topic, please. And if you found one of my booktalks and used it, I'd love to know how it worked for you.