Mary Hooper imagines the details of Anne Green’s story in Newes From the Dead. Ms. Hooper learned of a servant who survived her hanging in 17th century England, and built on the known facts to write what might have happened. The story is told from two different perspectives: Robert, a medical student who is about to witness a dissection of a recently hung corpse, and Anne, a servant accused of infanticide. The story begins with Anne in limited consciousness, and she struggles to figure out where she is and whether she can move while she recalls what led her to this point.
I was interested in reading this due to the based-on-a-true-story plot, but I had to push myself to get through it. Much of the book is spent waiting in present tense while Anne tells her back story. The scenes set in the dissection room involved a lot of nothing for at least half the book, and at times it gets unbelievable: one medical student stomps on Anne to make sure she is dead. Really? You are about to take apart a body to learn about how it all works and it is okay to stomp on it? The pay-off in the last part of the book is interesting, although I’m not sure it is worth it. Anne struggles to comprehend the fact that she isn’t dead while the doctors pat themselves on the back for “bringing her back to life.” Many people are interested in seeing the girl who did not die, and the reader will want to know if the authorities still expect Anne to pay for her supposed crime by hanging. Ms. Hooper includes a copy of the pamphlet that originally told Anne’s story in the back of the book.
This would be interesting to fans of historic fiction, particularly fiction based on fact. It is probably not fast-paced enough for reluctant readers or readers who want more plot movement from their books.
Two and 1/2 stars