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The Wise Woman: A Novel [Paperback]

Philippa Gregory
3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
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Explore More from Philippa Gregory
Philippa Gregory's latest book, The King's Curse, is the 6th novel in her series, The Cousins' War. Explore more from the #1 best-selling author of books such as The Other Boleyn Girl and The White Queen. Learn more.
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Book Description

May 27 2008
#1 New York Times bestselling author Philippa Gregory weaves an unforgettable tale of a young woman’s sorcery and desire in Henry VIII’s England, where magic, lust, and power are forever intertwined.

Growing up as an abandoned outcast on the moors, young Alys’ only company is her cruel foster mother, Morach, the local wise woman who is whispered to practice the dark arts. Alys joins a nunnery to escape the poverty and loneliness she has felt all her life, but all too soon her sanctuary is destroyed. King Henry VIII’s followers burn the holy place to the ground, and Alys only just manages to escape with her life, haunted by the screams of her sisters as they burned to death.

She finds work in a castle not far from where she grew up as an old lord’s scribe, where she falls obsessively in love with his son Hugo. But Hugo is already married to a proud woman named Catherine. Driven to desperation by her desire, she summons the most dangerous powers Morach taught her, but quickly the passionate triangle of Alys, Hugo, and Catherine begins to explode, launching them into uncharted sexual waters. The magic Alys has conjured now has a life of its own—a life that is horrifyingly and disastrously out of control.

Is she a witch? Since heresy means the stake, and witchcraft the rope, Alys is in mortal danger, treading a perilous path between her faith and her own power.

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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

The author of the Wideacre trilogy offers another intense, absorbing tale, a grisly drama of passion and witchcraft in 16th-century England. Growing up as an ill-used apprentice to Morach, the much-feared wise woman of the moors, Alys finds respite by joining an order of Catholic nuns. When young Lord Hugo and his men burn the abbey to the ground during a drunken rampage, Alys is the only one to escape; she flees back to Morach, consumed with guilt at having abandoned her dying sisters. Summoned to minister to Lord Hugh, Hugo's father, Alys soon finds herself deeply involved in the treachery and intrigue surrounding the old man's attempts to have his son's marriage to the barren Lady Catherine annulled. Attracted to Hugo despite his murderous past, Alys begins to practice witchcraft in earnest to rid him of Catherine and become his wife. Her spells work all too well: Catherine's long-awaited pregnancy ends disastrously, and Hugo comes to love Alys, but in a sickly haze of lust that provides no basis for marriage. Alys soon finds herself so sunk in evil, so removed from God's love, that only a truly shocking gesture can bring about her salvation. Gregory adeptly manipulates hair-raising horror and mounting suspense, brilliantly evoking the period's turbulent atmosphere. Dou ble day Book Club alternate.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

This new novel by the author of Wideacre (S. & S., 1987) and other popular historical fiction profiles a woman versed in charms, conjuring, and fortune-telling who nonetheless falls into catastrophic misfortunes time after time. Escaping from an English convent, young Alys learns the arts of healing and magic from the "wise woman" who takes her in. Her struggle to find an independent life takes her among an array of characters, including a mediocre lover, a sickly old man still very much in control of the lives around him, and two challenging women: Marach and Mother Hildebrande. Gregory weaves a vivid tapestry of life in the 16th century, including plenty of sex, as the narrative strains toward a not-unexpected end.
- M.E. Chitty, Fairchild International Lib. Inst. , Plainfield, N.J.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Unpleasant and disappointing May 25 2009
After reading all of Philippa Gregory's Tudor novels and becoming addicted to her stories and her style, I expected to enjoy The Wise Woman. I started the book wanting to like the main character and kept reading in the hope that she would come to some type of redemption - alright, I guess you could make a point of saying that the very end of the book was a redemption of sorts, but what an unsatisfactory one! So much could have been done with this character. What I discovered was a book that became increasingly difficult to read. There are aspects of this book that are just downright nasty. There are times when Gregory seems to be pushing things to see just how much she can "gross out" her readers with details that are just unnecessary. With intrigue, history, religion, superstition, and sex, this book could have been an beguilingly good read. I did finish it but was quite happy to be done, an experience unlike that with other Gregory novels. Hugely disappointing and definitely not recommended.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Page turner every step of the way Aug. 9 2005
By buyer
While this book is not like her other historical fictions, it is still one of the best books I have read in a long time. I loved it so much I bought one for my Mom, Aunt and best friend, all of them also loved it. This book is a little twisted, but in a very real way. You can completely relate with the main character as she makes one bad decision after another that leads her down a trail of witchcraft, seduction, betrayal and deciept... The historical information is there but more importantly and more outstanding is the fantastic tale that is woven from the day a little girl takes her first steps alone all the way to the final leap as she realizes what is truely important... I don't understand why those other two reviews were so bad. If you like Anne Rice or Wilbur Smith's writing you'll love this. All the great story writing of both without the overly boring descriptives that can drag on in Rice's work or the lack there of in Smith's.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Creepy April 11 2010
Certainly not as enjoyable as 'The Other Boleyn Girl' by same author. In fact at times I thought it got down right creepy. At the very end perhaps, Alys tries to redeem herself but in such a dramatic way it was unfulfilling.
The book depicts a depraved justice system as well as negative attitudes towards women at the time. The two main female characters in the book derived worth from the fact that they were pregnant with a son presumably.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars not one of her best May 15 2009
This book was hard to read for a few differnt reasons ,it was hard to believe at points , was really gross at times,the story at times is so over the top. I would not read this book again and would not recommend it.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Buy this NOW! April 22 2012
By Elisha
This book is one of the best books I've ever read, I couldn't put it down. It does deal with mature themes so I wouldn't recommend it for a very young person but what do you expect it's historical fiction. If you're looking for something engrossing, maybe even a little heavy but something to get absorbed in than this book is for you. I love Phillipa Gregory's work but this one stands out, it's not like her other books so be warned!
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars horror in the middle ages April 6 2004
Wise Woman is a brilliant,wickedly honest addition to the midieval genre. After reading this I had to read all of Philippa Gregory's novels. This is the "edgiest" of them . This novel breathlessly proceeds with nail-biting pace to it's ultimate conclusion. There are scenes from this book which are BURNED in my memory: a nightmare of Candlewax and perfidy,the wave of a dolls arm, the truth revealed as to a woman's real value in Midieval society. As dark as it is, Wise Woman is sometimes amusing.It is the laughter, however,of the nervous and the dammed. I highly recommend Wise Woman as a "midieval" turned upside down.
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