WRONGED. HANGED. ALIVE? (AND TRUE!)
Anne can't move a muscle, can't open her eyes, can't scream. She lies immobile in the darkness, unsure if she'd dead, terrified she's buried alive, haunted by her final memory―of being hanged. A maidservant falsely accused of infanticide in 1650 England and sent to the scaffold, Anne Green is trapped with her racing thoughts, her burning need to revisit the events―and the man―that led her to the gallows.
Meanwhile, a shy 18-year-old medical student attends his first dissection and notices something strange as the doctors prepare their tools . . . Did her eyelids just flutter? Could this corpse be alive?
Beautifully written, impossible to put down, and meticulously researched, Newes from the Dead is based on the true story of the real Anne Green, a servant who survived a hanging to awaken on the dissection table. Newes from the Dead concludes with scans of the original 1651 document that recounts this chilling medical phenomenon.
Inspired by a true story, this novel tells the story of Anne Green, a teenage girl found guilty and hanged for infanticide in England in the year 1650. She continued to profess her innocence up to the moment of her death. Her body was to be donated to a medical college for teaching purposes, but a short time after she was pronounced dead and taken down to be prepared for autopsy, it was discovered she still had a pulse!
This novel alternates between two POVs. Half the chapters are from the perspective of Anne's mind, her internal thoughts as she lays in a coma-like state on the autopsy table. Through her thoughts, she tells the reader of all the events leading up to her being charged with infanticide. Her story may not be what you expect. The other chapters are from the POV of the medical student tasked with preparing her body for the autopsy class, he witnesses the first fluttering of her eyes. Anne's side is told in 1st person, while we hear the medical student's side in 3rd person. The medical student tries to notify the teaching doctors of what he sees but it takes seeing it for themselves shortly after the class starts to take the student seriously. The class (or at least the class discussions) then takes a more philosophical turn, the doctors and students debating how a medical professional might approach a cadaver whose soul seems to be still trapped within the body. Or how does one revive someone in such a comatose state? Keep in mind the characters are only working with 17th century medical knowledge.
I first came across this bit of history a few years back when I read An Instance Of The Fingerpost by Iain Pears, where it was briefly tied into the plot. I was instantly curious to know more, but couldn't find much on the actual history at the time, but later heard about this novel. It went on my "to check out sometime" mental TBR where it languished a good bit until just recently when I decided to finally knock it out. It was a solid 3 for me. While I didn't find this particular plot or the writing style all that gripping, the story did bring up some good points to think on, mainly how it gives the reader a pretty good look at just how jacked the social classes were, and what the division between those classes must have felt like for the people at the bottom. I also thought it was a cool touch that author Mary Hooper includes a copy of the actual pamphlet that was circulated in the 17th century telling the story of the girl who inspired this novel.
If you happened to be a fan of the modern contemporary, If I Stay by Gayle Forman, this novel -- at least the parts from Anne's perspective -- had a similar feel, but instead of modern day references, you read of England in the 1650s. So it could be a way to dip your toe into historical fiction if that's a genre you've been curious about but unsure of where to start.