Based on the real figure of the fascinating Elizabeth Poole, The Crimson Ribbon is the mesmerising story of two women's obsession, superstition and hope.
May Day 1646. The Civil War is raging and what should be a rare moment of blessing for the town of Ely takes a brutal turn. Ruth Flowers is left with little choice but to flee the household of Oliver Cromwell, the only home she has ever known. On the road to London, Ruth sparks an uneasy alliance with a soldier, the battle-scarred and troubled Joseph. But when she reaches the city, it's in the Poole household that she finds refuge.
Lizzie Poole, beautiful and charismatic, enthrals the vulnerable Ruth, who binds herself inextricably to Lizzie's world. But in these troubled times, Ruth is haunted by fears of her past catching up with her. And as Lizzie's radical ideas escalate, Ruth finds herself carried to the heart of the country's conflict, to the trial of a king.
One of the things that has amazed me since I set up this blog is the support from the blogging network for each other, and more recently in my case I've had offers from fellow bloggers to do guest reviews for me to help me catch up on my reviews. I'd like to thank Robyn from Elder Park Book Reviews for reviewing this one for me.
The Crimson Ribbon is set during the English Civil War. I feel that it is a undervalued time period in modern fiction and a subject that has not truly been addresses since Arthur Miller's The Crucible. The book starts off brutally but there is no way you could sugar coat witch hanging. What makes certain aspects of the book very frightening is because that is exactly how things happened. Women were falsely accused of witchcraft and justice was doled out by mob rule.
The story focuses on Ruth Flowers, a servant in Oliver Cromwell's house. After her troubles, she is sent to serve Elizabeth Poole in London. On Ruth's perilous journey to London, she meet John Oakes who repeatedly because like a guardian angel to her.
Ruth becomes obsesses with Lizzie and falls in love with her goodness and religious mania. Lizzie is not who Ruth thinks she is and regrettably sees that it all is a charade to masque Lizzie's true character.
Frustration is a constant theme in the novel. The historical accuracy details how Ruth had to hide herself and was watchful of her every action because there was very little justice for women in that era. Any little action or petty jealously would be reported to the witch finder general.
The paranoia of the time is expressed beautiful and the constant sense of dread that Ruth felt played like a metronome in the background. It was a very superstitious time- a time when it was said the devil walked the earth and Katherine Clements brings it life once again. It is often violent, as life was then but The Crimson Ribbon also offers more- hope.
This was a great historical read and I would highly recommend.
I'd like to thank Caitlin at Headline for sending me a copy of this book.