Finished March 31
The Wise Woman by Philippa Gregory
This novel is set during the reign of Henry VIII, in the north of England. Alys was left as a foundling on the step of the local wise woman, but when she looked to a local farm boy with an eye to marriage, his family arranged for her to get considered at the local abbey instead. Alys was drawn to the better life she could see for herself there and joined enthusiastically, considering the Mother Superior as a maternal figure.
But Henry VIII had different plans for the abbeys, and the young lord Hugo and his men set fire to the abbey, destroying it, and leaving Alys on the run back to the old wise woman. She finds it hard to live again in the squalor of poverty, and yet goes unwillingly to the local castle to heal the old lord. When he finds her able to read and write in both English and Latin, he takes her on as a scribe, and at first Alys just wants to keep her head down until she can find her way to another abbey.
But when Hugo sets his sights at her, she finds herself torn, and when she feels herself a pawn in the maneuverings between Hugo, his wife Catherine and the old lord, she looks to the wise woman for help.
Relying on deep magic to keep control over her own life, Alys finds herself both suspect and perhaps out of her depth. As the intrigue continues, Alys finds that she has lost her soul, and isn't sure whether she is willing to do what it takes to get it back.
A story of suspicion, legends, and politics, at a time where women were only useful as mothers, workers, and sexual objects, this novel brings history to life.
At times it seemed like Alys was sinking into madness and desperation as she yearned for a life of wealth, love, and luxury.