In the seventeenth century, after the Puritans have taken over England, life is very difficult for women, especially those without a husband’s protection. When Rachel Lockyer gets pregnant and her married lover William Walwyn is in the Tower, she has no recourse to defend herself. She instead hides her pregnancy from her employer and, when the baby is born, she conceals its death and buries it in the woods. But she’s suspected, spotted, and brought to trial; her own personal tragedy overshadowed by the law’s complete inconsideration for women.
The Glovemaker was a clever, thoughtful work of historical fiction that I really enjoyed. We don’t really get much set in Puritan England; I think I’ve read one other book set in this period recently that I loved, which was Lady of the Butterflies, and is slightly later. This is after the Civil War, when rule has become really strict, and of course, it’s targeted against our main character, Rachel.
Even though Rachel is sleeping with a married man, which leads to all of her woes, it’s still impossible not to feel for her as she slowly unravels her story. Her love affair with Walwyn manages to be so real and so genuine that I wasn’t sure I liked his wife, even though I could see her point of view, too; it’s a brief book but it packs a massive punch. There are more twists than you’d expect from the description and it’s worth experiencing them for yourself. Rachel was, for me, a great character, with a surprising amount of depth and a woman who could invoke sympathy in me, too.
It’s kind of a shame this book probably won’t be read by many men, because I think it’s actually a very valuable, heartbreaking story about life and women’s rights. It’s partly about the impact that laws can have when they are written by men with no consideration for the women they’re hurting and what that can do. A stillborn or miscarried child is a heartbreaking event in a woman’s life – but these laws were designed to ignore what a woman had to say, to ignore her pain and punish her for circumstances beyond her control. It’s an unfair burden to women, and stories that are about the seventeenth century have plenty of validity for our current lives as well. Shouldn’t women’s voices be heard in issues that are about their lives and bodies?
A worthy read – for those who like historical fiction, for those who like a plot that slowly unravels, for those who are concerned about women’s rights. Recommended.
On a related note, this book is known as Accidents of Providence in the United States.
All external book links are product links. I received this book for free for review from the publisher.