Chill with a Book READERS’ Award
It is 1682. Across the land, the Age of Reason has begun; scientific thought is ousting superstitious belief. The menacing days of the witchfinder have all but gone. Nevertheless, in Devon’s county town, three impoverished women are approaching the gallows, condemned to death for the crime of witchcraft. They come from the prosperous port of Byddeforde. There we find the rich merchants, the flourishing tobacco warehouses and the bustle of ships setting sail for the Newfoundland cod-banks. Yet, barely hidden, are layers of intolerance and antagonism that have built up over decades. A time of plague, of war, of religious dissent; all of which have fashioned the prejudices and fears of the town’s inhabitants.
In an alternative 2020, sixteen-year-old Martha, herself a bullies’ target, undertakes a school local history project. As she immerses herself in the lives of Bideford’s seventeenth century residents, the intertwining stories of these years are told through the eyes of real people who lived at the time. Probing the motivations and beliefs of Bideford’s seventeenth century residents, Martha comes to understand how past events might lead ordinary people to become the victims, the accusers, or the accused.
Sins as Red as Scarlet is the fictionalised but impeccably researched, unfolding of the history of a town and its inhabitants over forty tumultuous years. We follow Martha’s research as she realises that human nature does not change; intolerance and peer pressure have always exerted their power. Yet there have been and still are, those who stand aside from the bigotry and the victimisation. As the school project draws to a close, Martha finds a new resilience, enabling her to rise above those who seek to demean her.
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