In a time of suspicion and accusation, to be a woman is the greatest risk of all…
Fleetwood Shuttleworth is 17 years old, married, and pregnant for the fourth time. But as the mistress at Gawthorpe Hall, she still has no living child, and her husband Richard is anxious for an heir. When Fleetwood finds a letter she isn’t supposed to from the doctor who delivered her third stillbirth, she is dealt the crushing blow that she will not survive another pregnancy.
Then she crosses paths by chance with Alice Gray, a young midwife. Alice promises to help her give birth to a healthy baby, and prove the physician wrong.
As Alice is drawn into the witchcraft accusations that are sweeping the north-west, Fleetwood risks everything trying to help her. But is there more to Alice than meets the eye?
Soon the two women’s lives become inextricably bound together as the legendary trial at Lancaster approaches, and Fleetwood’s stomach continues to grow. Time is running out, and both their lives are at stake.
Only they know the truth. Only they can save each other
The Familiars Is an amazing debut by Stacey Halls, inspired by the Pendle Witch Trials in 1612. My book group just spent three hours discussing it and we could absolutely have spent another three and still have had so much to say about this fantastic and immersive read.
Although I’d never heard of these particular witch trials before reading the book, I’ve become absolutely obsessed with finding everything out about them after finishing it. I’ve watched documentaries, gone on YouTube and sourced books from the library too. I’m a huge fan of The Crucible and have always been utterly fascinated by the Salem Witch Trials so this was right up my street and I was delighted that it provoked so much discussion and debate at our book group too.
One of the best parts of this book for me was the fact that all of the characters were actually real people either directly involved in the trials or associated with them. I have become a bit obsessed with Fleetwood and am already planning a visit to her house – which really exists – so can see her portrait and walk in her grounds for myself…
I Absolutely adored this book. They do say that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but this narrative more than matched up to its gorgeous cover. One of my favourite things was the relationship between Fleetwood and Alice, and how their relationship allowed a real trust to develop amidst all the lies, speculation and deception in the novel and in these times themselves. Its a real strength of the novel that despite some supernatural and unearthly events, their relationship remains absolutely down to earth and realistic and has you rooting for them as the pace heats up and things look pretty uncertain for them both. Fleetwoods journey from a young woman buffeted by circumstances to a woman in charge of her own destiny is extremely satisfying and you’ll be cheering her own in the final few chapters for sure.
Whether you’re a historical fiction buff or someone coming to this gorgeous debut unexpectedly, you will certainly not forget Fleetwood Shuttleworth in a hurry and I hope you enjoy it as much as my Book Grouo from The Wine Library did
Writer On The Shelf
Stacey Halls grew up in Rossendale, Lancashire, as the daughter of market traders. She has always been fascinated by the Pendle witches. She studied journalism at the University of Central Lancashire and moved to London aged 21.
She was media editor at The Bookseller and books editor at Stylist.co.uk, and has also written for Psychologies, the Independent and Fabulous magazine, where she now works as Deputy Chief Sub Editor.
The Familiars is her first novel. You can find her on Instagram @staceyhallsauthor and Twitter @stacey_halls