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Three: A Tale of Brave Women and the Eyam Plague Reader Reviews

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Three: A Tale of Brave Women and the Eyam Plague

I am particularly pleased to review this book. It tells of three women and individual responses to the plague’s devastation where contact with infected people leads inevitably to death.

I am particularly pleased to review this book. A work of fiction, it is based on facts surrounding the village of Eyam in Derbyshire which took the decision to quarantine itself during the plague of 1665. It tells of three women and individual responses to the plague’s devastation where contact with infected people leads inevitably to death. The book is both powerful and disturbing, particularly as we are currently living through a pandemic. The three female protagonists, Emmott, Catherine and Elizabeth have different problems to tackle, but ultimately work towards the same outcome – to protect their loved ones. The book is filled with historical detail which only helps to place the reader deep in the heartbreak that ensues. Reading this novel during a pandemic is both disturbing and totally recognisable and almost becomes a modern tale of social distancing and distrust of strangers. I wonder if my response to the read might have been different had I read this novel say two years ago? This novel is not an enjoyable read in the sense of the ‘happy ever after,’ but I can highly recommend it’s telling of a piece of history that we would all do well to remember. I have visited Eyam and the end of my visit left me with the same feelings as this book – a thankfulness that we have the knowledge to fight for the right to survive. 

Lynn Johnson

In 'Three: A Tale of Brave Women and the Eyam Plague', Jennifer Jenkins has taken real historical characters and woven a work of creative fiction around their lives and, in some cases, deaths, that is well researched, authentic and completely and grippingly readable.

I first heard of the small Derbyshire village of Eyam in November 2020, when it's story formed part of a Channel 5 documentary, providing, as it does, unparalleled data about the transmission of a devastating disease, so relevant in today's world. In 'Three: A Tale of Brave Women and the Eyam Plague', Jennifer Jenkins has taken real historical characters and woven a work of creative fiction around their lives and, in some cases, deaths, that is well researched, authentic and completely and grippingly readable. The Great Plague escaped London in a consignment of flea-ridden second hand clothing, delivered to one George Viccars, journeyman and assistant to Eyam's tailor. Falling sick on September 6th 1665, he died the very next day. We then follow the fortunes of three women of the village; Emmott Syddall, a young woman living with her parents and five siblings, betrothed to Rowland Torre from a neighbouring village, Elizabeth Hancock, the blacksmith's wife and mother to seven children and Catherine Mompesson, the wife of the Rector with two children. Through their eyes, we witness the cohesion and strength of the entire village population of around 700, the hopes and fears that lead to their brave decision to lock themselves away in a heroic act of self sacrifice, to stop the spread of the disease. Around 260 people died in 14 months, roughly 36% of all the inhabitants, but their self imposed quarantine undoubtedly saved the lives of thousands of others. Although the author has, of course, fictionalised the dialogue and some of the events, this book portrays real women, who did whatever they saw as necessary for their friends and families, with love and courage in the face of extremely challenging circumstances, whatever the personal cost. Their unfalteringly compassionate and altruistic response to the situation they found themselves having to contend with should be an inspiration to us all. 

Drena Irish