Published: May 2nd, 2022
Publisher: Ginger Cat
Genre: Historical Fiction
Format: Paperback, Kindle
Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for this extraordinary tale, The Maids of Biddenden. Thank you to Anne at Random Things Tours for the invitation to take part and to Ginger Cat for the gifted copy of the book.
‘There is no me; there is no you.
There is only us.’
The Maids of Biddenden is inspired by the real-life story of conjoined twins Mary and Eliza Chulkhurst, born in 1100 into a wealthy family from a small Kent village.
Joined at the hip, the sisters overcome fear and hostility to grow into gifted and much-loved women – one a talented musician and song-writer, the other a caring healer and grower of medicinal plants. Entangled in the struggles for power and influence of the great Kent nobles of the time, they achieve much in their lifetimes and leave behind a legacy in Biddenden that survives to this day.
“Bishop Gundulf had told her of the abbey’s dark secret. And, since then, the thought of it has accompanied her ever waking moment. Today she would see it in the flesh. It. She. They? What was best? Soon she would know.”
Two young ladies. Two minds. But one body. Meet Eliza and Mary Chulkhurst, the Maids of Biddenden.
This fascinating novel is inspired by the real-life story of conjoined twins born in a small Kentish village in 1100. Born joined at the hip, the sisters were not expected to survive and were taken to the local abbey to live out their short lives. But these remarkable girls overcame expectations and flourished, living to 34 years of age and leaving behind a legacy that remains to this day.
Until I received the invitation to this blog tour I had never heard of the Maids of Biddenden but I was immediately intrigued. How would people of the twelfth century react to conjoined twins? And what kind of life were they able to live? Author GD Harper answers these questions and more, skillfully and evocatively bringing Eliza and Mary’s story to life.
“We were observers of each other’s world and it was wonderful these worlds were different. God ordained that our bodies were bound together, but not our minds. Our minds soared off in different ways, giving us a degree of freedom from each other.”
I was enthralled by these extraordinary women and lost myself in their story. When we first meet them they are just six-years-old and live hidden from view at the abbey, knowing nothing of the outside world. We follow them as they return to live with their family, discover the world outside the abbey’s walls and the prejudice of people who have never before seen conjoined twins. They face unique struggles which we watch them overcome to achieve things that nobody ever expected: Eliza becoming a talented musician and song-writer and Mary becoming a great and renowned healer. Harper provides insight into the Maids’ innermost thoughts and dreams, allowing the reader to really connect with and feel for them. What struck me most about Eliza and Mary was not only their strength, but their individuality, something many didn’t see, expecting them to be the same person in mind as well as body. But they couldn’t be more different from one another, something that poses its own set of challenges that they conquer with the same tenacity as every other obstacle in their path.
Captivating, uplifting and moving, this is a story that will stay with you long after reading. A book I would highly recommend.
MEET THE AUTHOR:
GD Harper is a past winner of a Wishing Shelf Red Ribbon Book Award, and was shortlisted for the Lightship Prize for first-time authors and longlisted for the Page Turner Book Award and the UK Novel Writing Award.
His first historical novel, ‘The Maids of Biddenden’, has already been shortlisted for the 2021 Impress Award, longlisted for the 2021 Exeter Novel Prize, the 2021 Cheshire Novel Prize and the Flash 500 Novel Award, and was a 2021 Page Turner Writer Award finalist.
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Thanks for reading Bibliophiles 😊 Emma xxx
Please check out the reviews from the other bloggers taking part in the tour.
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