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A Sarah’s Vignettes Book Review: The Familiars by Stacey Halls (@stacey_halls) ~ @ZaffreBooks ~ #TheFamiliars

~ Publisher’s Description ~

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 read 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 to prove the physician wrong.

As Alice is drawn into the witchcraft accusations that are sweeping the north-west, Fleetwood risks everything by trying to help her. But is there more to Alice than meets the eye?

Soon the two women’s lives will 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.

~ My thoughts ~

What a brilliant book and definitely not what I expected. To tell you the truth, I’m not completely sure what I expected from The Familiars. Set in 1600s Lancashire and based around the Pendle Witch trials, it’s a period in English history I know little about nor an era I usually enjoy stories set in. However, Stacey Halls contemporary writing style, with some language from the period interweaved here and there, helped me settle into the story easily.

Fleetwood Shuttleworth is the 17 year old mistress of Gawthorpe Hall and protagonist of The Familiars. The story follows Fleetwood as she seeks help to carry a baby full term. She is also a real person as were her husband Richard Shuttleworth, Alice Gray, one of the witches on trial, and many other characters in the novel. I love it when an author takes a real place (Gawthorpe Hall is in Padiham, Lancashire), people and events and writes a story from it. Stacey Halls is a natural storyteller and takes the reader on a journey through life in Lancashire, what it was to be a women during the time of the Pendle Witch trials, and one brave young woman’s quest to seek the truth.

The Familiars is a cleverly structured and beautifully written debut. It draws on the strengths of women and the power of female friendships in a time dominated by men, where women were seen and treated as inferior, their place very much in the home. They were to be seen and not heard. Stacey Halls has created a woman ahead of her time in Fleetwood Shuttleworth. Fleetwood is a strong woman and as we go through the story, we understand her nature.

For me, reading a physical copy of a book starts with the cover. I read a hardback copy of this book and what a beautiful copy it is. The cover designer has done an excellent job of pulling out the key elements of the story. The blue leaf of each page really finishes it off. 

I thoroughly enjoyed The Familiars and I am really looking forward to reading Stacey Halls next book The Foundling, due to be published in February 2020.

~ Where to find The Familiars ~

The Paperback edition of The Familiars was published in the UK by Zaffre Books on 24 September 2019. It can be found in all good bookshops, on Amazon UK, Amazon US and on Goodreads.

~ About Stacey Halls ~

Author Stacey Halls

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, 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.

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~ T: @stacey_halls

~ I: @staceyhallsauthor

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