Last night I had trouble falling asleep. I place the blame for this entirely on Mary Hooper’s creepy novel, Newes from the Dead, which I finished right before bed. Just look at that cover! It’s enough to give you nightmares!
The entire time you are reading Newes from the Dead you have the chills. You know, those involuntary shudders that take over your body, making it hard to turn the pages?
Anne Green is a servant girl in 17th century England. Her family is poor, so she lives in the big house a few villages away. While life is not easy, she is content. She even has a suitor, young John the blacksmith. However, when the teenage son of her master begins flirting and making promises to her, she is flattered and sometimes even flirts back a bit. However, she knows he is only being silly, until the day that he makes an unwanted advance against her. He promises her that he loves her and will raise her up to new heights…he will even make her a lady! All she has to do is give him the one thing he wants. It’s just a silly little thing, not even an issue. He fills her head with promises and wild dreams, and she succumbs. However, this begins a torrid one-sided affair, which she immediately regrets. There is no passion, no sweetness, no love in their encounters. Her young master continues making promises, and is also very jealous of her suitor, John. She is forced to break John’s heart when she ends their relationship. Only days later, when her young master, Geoffrey, heads back to school, Anne discovers she is pregnant.
Though she tries to eliminate the pregnancy, knowing that the stain of losing her virginity will forever humiliate her and her family, she is not successful. She is determined to hide the pregnancy until Geoffrey comes home, when she will tell him and he will set things right. This thought keeps her content, until Geoffrey does come home, but not alone. He has brought his new bride-to-be and Anne realizes he is a liar and she is doomed.
All of this would make a wonderful book on it’s own. However, it doesn’t stop there! When Anne gives birth to a stillborn, premature baby alone in an outhouse, she is discovered and accused of infanticide. When she tells her master that his son is responsible for her condition, she ends up in jail awaiting trial on charges of murder. Anne is a simple girl, who believes that the truth will prevail and she will be set free. She is naive and trusting, unaware that Master Reade is a magistrate and holds her fate in his hands.
Anne is found guilty and hung for her crimes. Her body is donated to science for dissection, as is the normal custom for the poor. However, her story only begins there. When the doctors begin the dissection, it is discovered that she is alive!
The story is told in alternating chapters by Anne, in a coma of sorts, reliving her experience, and by Robert, a scholar with a stammer who is struggling with his own views of life and death.
I can not accurately describe the creepiness of this book. Mary Hooper has captured a perfect voice for Anne, and you really do believe you are right alongside her when she begins to awaken in her coffin. You feel for her and are outraged by the rash judgement of the judge and jury in her trial. It seems hundreds of women were prosecuted for infanticide in the past, because proving they had not killed their newborn was harder than saying they had!
Even creepier is the fact that Anne’s story is true. Mary Hooper includes a great author’s note and even a copy of one of the pamphlets made announcing Anne’s miraculous resurrection.
This is a great book for reluctant YA readers. It deals a lot with sex, so I am not sure I would recommend it lower than 8th grade, but I could definitely see it being used in high school history classes. It is very high interest, fast-paced, and frightening!