Forged in the Fire by Ann Turnbull

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Large gatherings have been banned, places of amusement have been closed, travel restrictions have been imposed, health-related certificates are required in certain circumstances, and anyone in a household where there’s infection is required to isolate.  Some people advocate restrictions, whilst others are concerned about the loss of their liberties.  And there are grave concerns about the effect of it all on the economy.  Not to mention a lot of conspiracy theories.  No, this is not 2020 or 2021: it’s a book written in 2006 about life in London in 1665/1666.  But doesn’t it all sound strangely familiar?

This is the sequel to No Shame, No Fear.  It’s not as good as the first book, but it’s not bad.  Three themes – the persecution of Quakers, Will and Susanna’s romance, and the outbreak of plague – all intermingle.

Will’s gone off to London, to try to find a decent job which will enable him and Susanna to marry.  Going to London to seek your fortune’s a bit cliched, and I’m sure he could have found a job in Shropshire, but anyway!  The persecution of Quakers is continuing and, when he protests against some of his friends being deported, Will is thrown into prison.  Meanwhile, it’s difficult to get post out of London due to concerns about infection.  Panicking about his safety, Susanna goes to London to look for him – but gets the wrong idea when she founds out that he’s moved in with a wealthy man with a beautiful daughter.  (He’s actually working as the man’s librarian.)

I didn’t find this as good as the first book, as I said.  Will explains that Susanna’s got the wrong idea, but each of them refuses to speak to the other, and they both do a lot of sulking, and they come across as two 13-year-olds having strops rather than a couple who’d been on the verge of marriage. Then Susanna suddenly realises she’d got it all wrong when an old letter of Will’s, which has been backwards and forwards in the post for months, turns up, and, hey presto, all is forgiven, and it’s haste to the wedding.

Then the Great Fire breaks out, and there’s a detailed description of the characters’ escape from it.  Interestingly, it also makes a point about the number of books destroyed in the Fire, something which you never really think about.   And it all gets even cornier as Will’s estranged dad is so relieved to find his son alive that he decides he doesn’t mind about him becoming a Quaker and marrying a lower-class girl.  It really is a bit corny, but it’s a young adult book, not an adult book, so maybe I was expecting too much.  And I suppose it’s no cornier than Elizabeth Bennet completely changing her mind about Mr Darcy after reading his letter, or Scarlett O’Hara suddenly realising by Melanie’s deathbed that Rhett Butler’s her true love!   So maybe I’m being a bit too critical – I probably wouldn’t have worried about it being corny if I’d read it when I was 11 or 12.

So, like I said, not as good as the first book, but certainly not bad.

 

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