Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Hangman in the Mirror by Kate Cayley

Genre:  YA Historical Fiction

Description (taken from Goodreads):
"A strong-willed 16-year-old girl fights for survival in 18th-century North America. "

Francoise Laurent has never had an easy life. The only surviving child of a destitute washerwoman and wayward soldier, she must rely only on herself to get by. When her parents die suddenly from the smallpox ravishing New France, Francoise sees it as a chance to escape the life she thought she was trapped in.

Seizing her newfound opportunity, Francoise takes a job as an aide to the wife of a wealthy fur trader. The poverty-ridden world she knew transforms into a strange new world full of privilege and fine things -- and of never having to beg for food. But Francoise's relationships with the other servants in Madame Pommereau's house are tenuous, and Madame Pommereau isn't an easy woman to work for. When Francoise is caught stealing a pair of her mistress's beautiful gloves, she faces a future even worse than she could have imagined: thrown in jail, she is sentenced to death by hanging. Once again, Francoise is left to her own devices to survive . . . Is she cunning enough to convince the prisoner in the cell beside her to become the hangman and marry her, which, by law, is the only thing that could save her life?

Based on an actual story and filled with illuminating historical detail, "The Hangman in the Mirror" transports readers to the harsh landscape of a new land that is filled with even harsher class divisions and injustices.

Let me start off with, I really wanted to like this book.  It has a great historical setting and the opportunity for romance.  However, I didn't feel enough emotion throughout the book.

This book felt like it jumped through the motions of life without really letting the reader feel how Francoise felt.  We go from living with her drunken parents to living as a maid to stealing from the maid to being thrown in jail.  Now why would stealing cause such a harsh sentence?  And why does she have to marry the hangman to avoid being hung?  I don't know; this book didn't explain the reasons why.

Near the end, I had to question how much of this was historically accurate.  And when I found out that there was a girl sentenced to hanging for stealing her mistress' belongings, I was very shocked.

Who would I recommend this to?  If you're a major historical fiction (who knows more about early Canada than I do), then you might like this book.  However, I believe reading the description will satisfy you just as much as reading the book.

Thanks goes to Annick Press and Netgalley for providing me a review copy of this book.

Challenges:  Young Adult Reading Challenge

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