Not sure whether I was lured into Stacey Halls’ novel, ‘The Familiars’, by the magic of witchcraft, or by the main character Fleetwood Shuttleworth.
Fleetwood, besides being a Christian name, is, of course, the place name of of yet another of the many coastal locations (i.e. greasy and grimy docklands) lucky enough to have been graced with my childhood self. I just hope that Lancashire County Council has made provision, within its budget, for the cost of a nameplate with which to mark out one of my world-famous abodes.
Fortunately, I lived in Fleetwood in 1976, far too late to have been caught up the nasty business of the Pendle witch trials of 1612. This is as well, as I did, and still do, have a bit of an interest in crazy hats – pointy-black-wide-rimmed witches’ hats being essential to my collection!
Not that it is my wish to jest (must stop doing that!), now that I’ve read Stacey Halls’ novel, and discovered that, although her version of events is fictional, the names of the characters involved are factual. A wealthy-young lady by the name of Fleetwood, really did live at Gawthorpe Hall, and a young poverty-stricken lass called Alice Gray really did have a narrow escape from the gallows.
What’s more, then I do believe that I have a number of ancestors who lived and died in Westmoreland, the home of Fleetwood’s mother, so I do feel that I owe these spirits my respect and empathy. I just hope that I am free from the DNA of any of the accusers or judges.
Greed and ambition dominate the lives of Stacey’s male characters. The local magistrate, Roger, thinks nothing of sacrificing the lives of the innocent, if it means that he can rank high on the list of King James’ favourites. And, although, Fleetwood’s husband is presented as having a malleable streak when it comes to his wife’s persuasions, this also makes him vulnerable to manipulation by his male friendship group, which just happens to include Roger!
In praise of the author, Stacey Halls, ‘The Familiars’ is a non-put-downable read for fans of historical fiction (read it in a day!). And those with an interest in psychology will immediately draw parallels between the stop-at-nothing, albeit semi-fictitious, social climbers of a royalist 17th century, and a number (i.e. large number) of all-too-real politicians today!
Copyright owned by Jay Cool, October 2019
P.S. Keep an eye on the ‘Silly-Savvy Family’ section of this blogsite for updates on the Lancastrian twiglets of my family tree, and for my Fleetwood memoir! (But be aware that if I find I am related to Roger, I will be keeping stum about it!)