Set on Watling Street, in a fictional area of limestone hills, Mrs McKeiver’s Secrets is a microcosm of England in the late 18th century – where all the problems facing rural villages are considered. This includes the horror of landlessness, the price of food and the threat of starvation as a once settled rural community is rocked to its core by the effects of the Hills' Enclosure Act 1795.
Mrs McKeiver has lived in the Hills for twenty years. Enough time for her to be accepted as the local midwife. She treats her women with herbal remedies, of her own making, and most importantly, with love. By 1799, after two bad harvests and four years of landlessness, she manages to get more organised help for desperately poor families. As an observant midwife, she encourages the Reverend Reeves and local farmers to contribute to the provision of any meat and spare food, for those on Parish Poor Relief. The Parish House has problems of the worse kind, with a heartless overseer; its women and orphaned children needing her help. In amongst, she has to deal with two pressing problems herself. Firstly, how does she increase her paltry income? Wheat prices are rising daily and meals are becoming more difficult, even for her and, secondly, will she have to marry again, to feed herself and her crippled adult son? And if so, to whom?
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Mrs McKeiver's Solutions opens the day after the Dunton Canal Basin's Official Opening. This links the Hills with all the other canals and is a faster route for trade than pack horses. However, Mrs McKeiver has problems enough at home: a
This book appears to have been well researched and has a great feel of the time. There is an awful lot going on in it. One minute it reads like a social history textbook, the next like an antique vetinary manual, the next like an epic war novel. It is bound together by blood and gore. Definitely one for readers with strong stomachs who want to immerse themselves in the darker side of eighteenth century life.
This book is about people in an English village after an Enclosure Act in 1795 left them without common land and consequently impoverished. Mrs McKeiver is the village midwife and herbalist whose son has been disabled by polio. She does her best to alleviate the suffering of people (especially women) in the community. The everyday lives of the villagers are closely observed, particularly what they ate and the efforts they make to survive in such a harsh environment. I knew little about this period of our history but the author has clearly done a great deal of research on it and the result is both entertaining and informative.
by Eileen Bragg