Five Wounds is the debut novel by author Katharine Edgar. It is pitched as a Young Adult book, but I have to say that this is no barrier to adults wanting to read it. The language flows free and it is in no way dumbed down. It lacks for nothing in comparison with a book aimed at the adult market.
Five Wounds is set during the Pilgrimage of Grace, a turbulent time during English history, and it takes the reader effortlessly into the world of Tudor England. The story is centred around the tale of Nan, a teenager who has been plucked from a world of convents and religious devotion and put straight into a life where she faces an arranged marriage to a much older man, along with political intrigue and danger.
The reader is provided with a wealth of historical details, well researched as regards to accuracy. The description, both of the scenes and the various objects and clothing, and also of the thoughts of the people and their vocabulary choices really bring the Tudor period to life. The historical scene is set very deftly indeed, and I thoroughly enjoyed this aspect of the book. This is a side of history little covered in schoolbooks, which generally prefer to concentrate on the big events and political shenanigans of the day, whereas in Five Wounds we see attention on the everyday minutiae, the small details of life.
Katharine Edgar deals skilfully with the attitudes of the day, tackling sensitive themes of human relationships and nature. This includes abusive behaviour, which she approaches head on, accepting it as part of life and sweeping nothing under the carpet. Yet there is nothing gratuitous about it; it is merely an accurate portrayal of a historical reality: nothing less.
I found it to be a very engaging read, with a rich and varied vocabulary, and realistic characters, as well as lively and interesting dialogue. It is easy to identify with the main character of Nan, share her fear of her fate at the hands of the men in her life: her father, Lord Middleham, and especially Francis, with whom she has a troubled and very teenage relationship. Despite her strong religious convictions, she is no whitewashed heroine, but a real human being, with faults, rash decisions and emotions. I found the character very believable. Also realistic were some of the secondary characters, such as Francis, whose petulant immaturity and coercive behaviour rang very true.
There were some points in the book that were left open – perhaps this was deliberate in order to set the scene for a sequel, and I shall certainly look forward to further works by Katharine Edgar – she is definitely an author to keep an eye on.
Five Wounds is available here: