In Sinful Folk Ned Hayes places us in a small village in the north of England in the year of our lord 1377 where we find a disaster is taking place. Five young boys from the village are killed in a house fire. One of the parents, Mear as they are known in the village, is apparently mute and male as far as the village is concerned. In practice she is female and hasn’t spoken to anyone other than her son and one other villager since she arrived at there 10 years earlier. The tale of Mear or Myriam as she was known as before her arrival, the death of her child and the quest of Mear and the villagers for justice takes us through an England that feels dark and unsafe at times.
Based on a true story in the sense of the fire in the village, the writing style really worked well for me. There is a great level of description with left me with a clear impression of the countryside and a sense of time and place. Even with the level of description there is also a good pace and I found the book hard to put down. The evocative power of the writing creates the feeling of that mid winter darkness but also, in Miriam’s memories the light and warmth of happier days. As the book progresses we gradually uncover more and more of the stories of the villagers and Mear in particular.
I really enjoyed this and found it a really engrossing read – certainly for any lovers of historical fiction. While I’ve given it four stars it is one of those books that deserves more than that and is certainly a 9 out of 10 for me. I’ll look forward to the author’s, Ned Hayes, next book with interest, I’ll definitely aim to read it.
Note – I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair review