Monday, June 25, 2012

Preliminary Book Review

This weekend I started reading a book by an author who is new to me. It is the second in the Hangman's Daughter series, but the first that I have read. The jury is still out in my mind as to my final opinion of the book, as I am only part of the way through it. But the part I have read is interesting; and it has centered my attention on what life was like in Europe in the 1600s.

The author is a descendant of the Hangman and the members of the Hangman's family really existed. However, other than their names and the fact that the job of Hangman was carried through many generations of his family, the author has invented the characteristics and life events of these people.

Human natures and characteristics don't change through the centuries. But knowledge, beliefs, and equipment have changed radically since the 1600s. It is always a surprise to realize the people really did believe that diseases and deaths were often caused by a witch. And a woman could be labeled a witch for almost any reason. And such a label could be deadly. Superstitions that seem really silly to us were both believed and taken very seriously by both the populace and the church. Very few people were literate, and the church and state thought that was a good thing, as it helped keep people in their proper places. Every society needed an executioner, but shunned the one they paid to do the dreadful job. Even the church refused baptism and burial in sacred ground to the hangman and anyone in his family. Living conditions were brutal for the masses, and not all that comfortable for those better off.

I contrast these conditions from 400 years ago with a court decision handed down by a French judge last week. That judge ruled that, despite the fact that French workers get four to six weeks vacation every year, if a person gets sick during his/her vacation, the employer must give additional vacation days for the days the vacationer was ill!

Anyway, I will finish reading this book, which has a mystery including a poisoned priest, the tomb of a Knight Templar, a missing treasure, and romantic problems for the Hangman's daughter! So far it is holding my interest.

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