My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Mrs McKeiver’s Secrets is a historical novel set in the fictional village of The Hills in England around 1799. It deals with the poverty of the people suffering from Land Enclosure Acts where common ground that they used to feed their animals on, perhaps grow small crops and collect firewood was no longer available to them. Poaching, another source of food for the poor was being heavily punished and the living conditions of most were severe.
Mary McKeiver is the local midwife, healer, part-time Sunday school teacher and secret keeper of many a village woman in trouble. Living with her own crippled son, Mrs McKeiver treats everyone with her herbs, tonics, teas and poultices.
The Reverand Reeves also tries to help the poor, he gives food to the needy, going against his Bishop and many of the Vestry Committee. Yet his congregation is dwindling with the arrival of Quakers at the mill and Methodists in the locality.
The situation is desperate for many, Mrs McKeiver even worries for her own future and turns to the offer of marriage from land owner Andrew Logan as she encourages his generosity towards helping those in need.
I found this book a difficult read, the period of history is not taught much in schools, so is less well known to readers, I had to look up the enclosures acts to find out more about them. The storyline is very slow paced, not a lot actually happens. I felt the pace was clogged with too many references to everyone’s toilet needs. I was desperate to read some highlights of action, perhaps with the canal opening, or the village getting a school opened, or a big scene at the poor house, or even the wedding of Mrs McKeiver. The character narrative is quite unique, particularly Andrew Logan and at times left me baffled.
I’d like to see a new cover for this book which catches the readers eye, the brown sepia style will leave it sitting on many shelves untouched. Then I think the book would benefit from a fresh look to rework areas which don’t add anything to the pace and the storyline. What Mrs McKeiver’s secrets actually are needs to be really emphasised and play a much bigger part to the whole story.
This review is based on a free copy of the book given to me by Publishing Push