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Summary

Brought to you by Penguin.

A bewitching debut from a magnetic new voice in historical fiction. Cunning Women is sure to be loved by fans of The Essex Serpent and The Mercies.

They only want a kindness, but beware, for if you have no coin, they will curse you black and blue.

1620s Lancashire. Away from the village lies a small hamlet, abandoned since the Plague, where only one family dwells amongst its ruins. Young Sarah Haworth, her mother, brother and little sister, Annie, are a family of outcasts by day and the recipients of visitors by night. They are cunning folk: the villagers will always need them, quick with a healing balm or more, should the need arise. They can keep secrets, too, because no one would believe them anyway.

When Sarah spies a young man taming a wild horse, she risks being caught to watch him calm the animal. And when Daniel sees Sarah, he does not just see a strange, dirty thing; he sees her for who she really is: a strong creature about to come into her own. But can something as fragile as love blossom between these two in such a place as this?

When a new magistrate arrives to investigate the strange ends that keep befalling the villagers, he has his eye on one family alone. And a torch in his hand.

Cunning Women is the powerful reckoning of a young woman with her wildness, a heartbreaking tale of young love and a shattering story of the intolerance that reigned during the long shadow of the Pendle Witch Trials, when those who did not conform found persecution at every door.

©2021 Elizabeth Lee (P)2021 Penguin Audio

What listeners say about Cunning Women

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  • Overall
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Brilliant

Loved it. Really good plot, very good characters depth, easy listening. Absolutely recommended !

3 people found this helpful

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A window into a forgotten time

A fantastical slice of life from a time, pre-enlightenment, for a girl and her ‘cunning’ family as they try to make ends meet under constant threat of persecution.

Set around the time of the Pendle Witch Trials in the early 17th century this was a time I knew little about. Wonderfully written and perfectly narrated I thought, it really made me think about what life must have been like in the dark ages before the light of science was discovered and known to the masses.

The language used is a little different from modern prose which fits well for the setting I thought. At times the story is quite dark (think William Golding’s Lord Of The Flies) but thrilling nonetheless as I felt I knew the various characters so well.

I thoroughly enjoyed it all and it wasn’t what I was expecting or what I would normally read/listen to. As a debut novel, I thought it brilliant and I can’t wait to see (and hear) what comes next from Elizabeth Lee!
Very much recommended.

2 people found this helpful

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Tedious

Had to give up after a few chapters. Miserable and extremely dull. Lacklustre narration. Nothing to keep my interest

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excellent

really enjoyed the narration; beautiful story, in its heartbreak and hope. will order book too

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amazing

absolutely loved everything about this book. would highly recommend. a perfect mix of love, drama and witches

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heartbreaking

fabulous story. I really enjoyed it. loosely based on the Pendle Witch circumstances but enough literary licence to give a fresh perspective.

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The most annoying voice

This is a very annoying accent to listen to for a talking book. It put me off entirely. Much better to read this one.