Joanne Rendell’s OUT OF THE SHADOWS revolves around Clara Fitzgerald and Mary Shelley, author of FRANKENSTEIN and her ancestor. Clara has been engaged to Anthony, a scientist, for eight years. They live together, but he is totally involved in his laboratory research and seems to be drawing away from her. Clara has followed him from place to place, as his work necessitates, and she always finds a university position in the same location.
The death of her mother seven months earlier, her younger sister’s irresponsible behavior, and Anthony’s lack of attention have infused Clara to resume her studies into Mary Godwin Shelley’s life as a young girl and through her involvement with the poet Percy Shelley, as well as searching for some lost letters. She meets and works with a dying Mary Shelley enthusiast/scholar, Kay, who is being cared for by a very compassionate man, Daniel.
OUT OF THE SHADOWS is not a riveting stunner, but it is a satisfactory read.
THE HERETIC’S DAUGHTER by Kathleen Kent is about Sarah Carrier, whose mother Martha Carrier was hanged as a witch in Salem in 1692. Kent is a descendant of Martha and wrote about her in THE WOLVES OF ANDOVER, which has been retitled THE TRAITOR’S WIFE. In THE HERETIC’S DAUGHTER, Sarah is nine years old and through her point of view a story of colonial hardship is told.
In the settling of Massachusetts, preachers seem to have enormous sway over small communities. Sarah’s mother does not care much for the fire-and-brimstone fear that reverends use to intimidate their ignorant, suspicious, and superstitious flocks. From neither parent does Sarah receive warmth and nuturing attention, so when she is sent to stay with Martha’s estranged sister during a smallpox outbreak, Sarah thrives in the affection and caregiving of her aunt, uncle, and cousin Margaret.
Kent elucidates most thoroughly about the harsh life in the colonies, the ill-will of have-nots, the unrightgeousness of the self-rightgeous, and the preposterous/outrageous witch trials, as well as all the pain, suffering, and foolishness that occurred without medicine and common sense. These events that Kent explores and reveals are some of the important elements behind our forefathers drafting the Bill of Rights and the Constitution.
That said, I feel that several pages of extraneous detail and redundancy could have been edited out for it blunted dire situations with boredom.