A Woman’s Lot is an historical fiction set in Hampshire during the 14th century. This is book two of the Meonbridge Chronicles. It features the lives of villagers in a period a few years after one of the plague epidemics. Continuing on with characters from the first book, this novel focuses on four particular women.
Eleanor Titheridge has inherited her father’s sheep flock, and continues to farm the animals, while Emma Ward is a skilled shepherdess who works for her. Agnes Sawyer is the carpenter’s wife, and she works alongside her husband in his workshop. Meanwhile, Susanna Miller’s husband prefers her to stay at home and tend to the children.
The plague caused labour shortages and workers have been demanding higher wages. The four women in this novel all have ideas about liberating themselves from the traditional roles of many women of their time. However many of the men of Meonbridge disapprove of women working and owning businesses. This causes trouble and disagreement in the village.
This is a slow and detailed novel, which is liberally spread with words from the era. I enjoyed the elements relating to the sheep, as they were something I understood well. There is a daunting cast of characters, but the author helpfully lists them at the beginning of the book . At other times the writing felt long-winded and over-explained. This was particularly felt when a second character repeated an incident which I had read about earlier.
It certainly is an interesting window into village life in a period when little was recorded about the everyday events. This is a book with a slower pace and would perhaps suit readers with an interest in how country folk worked and lived in the early middle ages.
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How can mere women resist the misogyny of men?
A resentful peasant rages against a woman’s efforts to build up her flock of sheep… A husband, grown melancholy and ill-tempered, succumbs to idle talk that his wife’s a scold… A priest, fearful of women’s “unnatural” power, determines to keep them in their place.
The devastation wrought two years ago by the Black Death changed the balance of society: more women saw their chance to build a business, learn a trade, to play a greater part. But many men still hold fast to the teachings of the Church and fear the havoc the daughters of Eve might wreak if they’re allowed to usurp men’s roles and gain control over their own lives.
Not all men resist women’s desire for change – indeed, they want it for themselves. Yet it takes only one or two to unleash the hounds of hostility and hatred…
Carolyn Hughes was born in London, but has lived most of her life in Hampshire. After a first degree in Classics and English, she started her working life as a computer programmer, in those days a very new profession. It was fun for a few years, but she left to become a school careers officer in Dorset.
But it was when she discovered technical authoring that she knew she had found her vocation. She spent the next few decades writing and editing all sorts of material, some fascinating, some dull, for a wide variety of clients, including an international hotel group, medical instrument manufacturers and the Government.
She has written creatively for most of her adult life, but it was not until her children grew up and flew the nest, several years ago, that creative writing and, especially, writing historical fiction, took centre stage in her life.