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4.3 out of 5 stars
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4.3 out of 5 stars
The Merrybegot
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VINE VOICEon 27 August 2013
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Nell is the Merrybegot in question, a young girl protected by the magical beings around her, who helps her healer granny deliver local babies and dispense medicines to the villagers. Nell clashes with the Minister's daughters, particularly Grace, who decides to cover up her indiscretion with a local lad by accusing Nell of witchcraft. Enter witchfinder Matthew Hopkins, keen to earn his fee by branding both Nell and her granny witches.

The historical elements of this story mix well with the fictional tale of Nell, and I was easily caught up in the events as Nell tries to stay true to her heritage while escaping the fate Hopkins has in mind for her. It's a very enjoyable story, with great characters, a rattling plot, and a good twist in the tale, too!
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on 10 April 2011
It is Spring 1645 and the first English Civil War is drawing to its inevitable close. King Charles I holds onto his freedom by a thread with his loyalist supporters holding only small pockets of the Midlands & North Wales with his son (Charles II to be) hiding out in the West Country (Cornwall). Matthew Hopkins, self-styled Witch-finder General plies his lucrative and deadly business stirring the countryside to find and nail any suspected of using the Dark Arts. Against this historical backdrop Julie Hearn tells her story of the Merrybegot (a child conceived on Beltane morning who has a special affinity to nature and the healing arts or to some - a witch). The countryside is alive with Piskies and Fairies though you might never see one. The book could be described as a fanciful precursor to the Salem Witch Trials that occurred in New England half a century later. Although I don't rate this one as being as good as Hearn's debut book (Follow Me Down) or Rowan the Strange, I did think it was a very enjoyable read, with pleasing characterisations - some feat considering that one of the characters I ended up caring so much for is a rather foolish chicken. The story is told primarily from our young Nell's point of view with a more retrospective and untrustworthy alternative supplied by the eventual confessions of Patience Madden - one of a pair of sisters who accuse Nell of ill wishing them. The author also does a great job weaving some fascinating folklore and real herbcraft into the narrative.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 28 July 2013
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Welcome here a writer in full control - this a tale of magic, mischief and malevolence. Wild and whirling words describe the 1645 plight of young Nell in a tiny highly superstitious West Country community. Here there be piskies "uglier than dead hedgehogs", Nell's "splutter-minded" granny, the new Puritan minister with a face "like a trodden parsnip". His quest is to drive evil from the village, "frolicking" especially. Little does he know his own daughter Grace has "frolicked" and is about to bring troubles down upon all. Nearly fifty years later, Grace's long suffering sister Patience at last reveals what really happened....

The story is great all the way through. Nell is a Merrybegot, one protected by The Powers - like her "cunning woman" granny, she a healer of illness, deliverer of babies, the one to turn to in times of woe. Far away but about to intrude, is a purge against witchcraft - for a fee, Witch-Finder General Matthew Hopkins only too keen to expose unsavoury practices, the gallows to follow.

Hysteria mounts and passions boil over - helped along by the spiteful tiny piskies so adept at sniffing out trouble and fanning the flames. (Fairies are little use, they most tetchy and not to be trusted.)

All in all, there is quite a mix, the various strands skilfully interwoven. The climax excites, with an interesting aftermath.

From the very start I was engrossed, happy to be swept along by such literary exuberance. In short, a veritable treat.
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TOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 10 March 2014
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
There's something about this book that hooked me in and I quite enjoyed the read.

In the Merrybegot, there are all of the usual elements you'd expect in a novel featuring supposed witchcraft. There's more than a passing similarity to the Salem Witch Trials and even that notorious Witch Finder General, Mathew Hopkins, rides in for a couple of scenes of interrogation.

The Merrybegot in question is a young girl, trainee midwife and healer, born with a natural affinity to the law of nature and living in a world of Fairie, Pixie Law. She's a type of New Age child born before her time and spends her days roaming around the countryside, casting spells and just being at one with nature. Ufortunately, for this little Merrybegot, the daughter of the local minister has a real problem and when she reaches out for help, that help is refused - for very genuine reasons.

From that point the plot takes a trip away from the sun, the fields and the animals and follows a path into the dark, spiteful and revenge soaked heart of the minister's daughter. The change from light to dark is nicely worked to add extra texture. The little Merrybegot faces an uncertain future as she stands accused of witchcraft.

There are many other 'Witchy' books available for this age range but this one goes a little further. It contains moderate scenes of pregnancy/childbirth/torture while the dialogue tends to be on the strong side. I wouldn't recommend it for younger children for those reasons.

Only a short novel, just 266 pages of well spaced, large print, and I read The Merrybegot in two sittings.
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VINE VOICEon 8 October 2013
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
A tale of cunning women and witch hunts set in the seventeenth century.
Nell is learning from her gran how to use nature's bounty to help heal as well as the ways of the midwife. They are a part of nature's pattern of life. Nell is a wellbegot, born as a result of midsummer celebrations.

When her path crosses that of Grace and Patience, the minister's daughters, the clash of religious belief and the old ways leads to a fatal conclusion.

Julie Hearn has come up with a story that explores the ways magic and medicine mixed in the early modern age. She evokes country life in a brilliantly believable way: the need for magic as cure, the everyday round of birth and death, the Sunday routine of church and chatter.

The spice to the story is the piskies and fairies, real beings of the countryside who bring humour and threat to the edges of the story and prove to be Nell's saviours.

At its heart comes the hysteria whipped up by the witchfinder. The village people become a group of savage beasts full of blood lust, unable to use common sense. The consequences run down the years and finally across to America.

The story would make a good children's TV programme because it is vividly told and has easily recognisable characters with depth and personality. It also has a twist in the tale beloved of some supernatural films.
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on 25 February 2005
This book is an excellent view of the period surrounding the English Witch trial scares. It doesn't sensationalise the events and presents a sympathetic view of the village wisewoman and how her actions can be misconstrued by ignorant mob rule. I found it very well written and liked the way the spells were presented in a different type ,it made it seems as though you were reading 2 books. One a straightforward novel, the other a wisewomans book of spells and charms
Hughly recommended for any age
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on 31 December 2014
Set in West England in 1645 during the English Civil War. Nell the granddaughter of a healer, is a merry begot, a child conceived on Beltane's Day in May. she learns the art of healing from her grandmother, frolics in the wilds and communes with the fairies and pixies.

Grace Madden, the daughter of dour and fanatical puritan minister accuses Nell of witchcraft, and frame her pretending to be possessed, and making up lies of Nell having cursed her. in order to hide her own indiscretion and is aided in this diabolical plot by her sister , Patience (whose confession in 1692 in America during the Salem witch trials forms every alternate chapter of the book)
The fairies and piskies (who are real in the book which makes it a fantasy as well as a historical novel) work together to save Nell, After her grandmother dies after being brutally tortured by the villagers, led by the evil witch-finder general Matthew Hopkins (A 17th century Ayatollah) , and Nell herself is sentenced to be executed.
With the help of the fugitive Prince Charles (later the Merry Monarch Charles II) Nell will be saved, at the gallows.

A thrilling, compelling page turning yarn combining historic fiction , fantasy and the paranormal.
And examining the witch hunts in England in the 17th century when good women and girls were accused, tortured and murdered.
Parallels with today where in England , people where accused of witchcraft in the 17th century and are now destroyed ruthlessly in an error where the hunt is not for witches but for innocent working people accused of racism by the dour and malignant pc middle class establishment.
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VINE VOICEon 24 March 2006
a rattling good yarn - the first time I've ever read a Julie Hearn book but not the last! I really enjoyed 'the Merrybegot'; I loved the way several different strands of folklore and history were woven together, the characters were not the usual stereotyped 'witches' and the plot was imaginative and the story was superbly told. Julie Hearn is an excellent writer and I look forward to reading more of her books - recommended!
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VINE VOICEon 13 March 2014
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I didn't think I would like this book as I (foolishly) thought it would be typical YA fiction of spells and breathless race and chase for the post-Harry Potter generation. Like I say, foolish. It is in fact a rather fine tale against the historical backdrop of the English Civil War in an age of superstition, paranoia, ignorance and Stalin-esque denounciations. I thought the characters were well-drawn and the situations all too believable about lies and finger-pointing getting out of hand all too quickly. It also has a lot to say about the fragility of the status of women with knowledge in the face of superstitious men with power. This is not a book for younger children but I'd say most teenagers from 14 upwards will be able to handle the different plot elements.
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VINE VOICEon 18 November 2013
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
What did people do before they had TVs? The answer is they went witch hunting. This book is set at "the height of the witch craze in England" in the 1640s. The main character is Nell and she becomes the innocent victim of one of these witch hunts, on the verge of being hanged at one point.

The story is in two parts interlinking parts. That of Nell, and the confession of Patience Madden, one of the village minister's daughters. Together they form the story of what happened.

The minister is "a right miserable bogger. A killjoy and a Puritan." So what would he do if one of her unwed daughters got pregnant? He'd cover it up and blame her daughter's period of hiding on a witch, that witch being Nell. But Nell is a merrybegot, "a child sacred to nature", thus has powers on her side to help her survive this victimisation.

The minister enrols the help of Matthew Hopkins, the Witch-Finder General, a character who existed in real life. The other real life figure that features in the story is Charles II. However it is a fictional world with fairies and piskies featuring so any historians wanting to moan about the accuracy of their cameos should not bother.

The book does well to bring out the way it must have been felt to be the innocent victim of a witch hunt, and how powerless women and girls were when more reputable, in the eyes of society, people accused them and worked the locals up into a frenzy to nail them.

The story does fizzle out at the end as all the loose ends are tied up after the main story arc has come to a conclusion, but overall a really enjoyable read.
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