Salvation is the moving story of woman, Meg, and a man, Tom, who lived in England during the reign of Queen Elizabeth the first. Meg, married off by her parents to a man she can never love, has a lover, her childhood sweetheart, Tom, but Ralph, an unsavoury character finds out and bribes Tom to leave town. If he doesn’t, Ralph will tell Meg’s husband, a rich and powerful man, and neither Meg nor Tom’s life will be worth living. When Tom’s employer is found murdered and Tom gone, the police assume that Tom committed the murder and so begins a tale that takes the reader on a vivid journey through life in 16th century London set against the backdrop of the threat of Spanish invasion.
It’s a story with many unpredictable turns, and so riveting that I truly couldn’t put it down. Meg leaves her husband and, along with her maid, sets out to find Tom. Her journey takes her from a life of luxury to that of a washer woman, and many things in between. Tom ends up in prison and if it weren’t for the owner of a theatre that befriended him, he would have rotted in Newgate. The theatre owner is a great character and one of the rare people that show kindness to either Tom or Meg. I’ll not say more about the story, except that it’s brilliant and it hangs on the question of whether Tom and Meg will ever manage to find each other. The plot and pacing are impeccable. The characterisation strong and the prose engaging.
Steel takes us right into the era. We can smell the smells, taste the flavours, feel the rough clothes against our skin and see all too clearly the brutality of the time. Her descriptions of the public executions were horrific and the possibility that that could happen to Tom provided a powerful tension. The reliance of women on men for protection and provisions was strikingly obvious and the story certainly made this reader grateful for the developments in women’s rights in the modern world.
I received this book free of charge from the author in return for an honest review. 5 stars.
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