Oct 19, 2011

Review: The Hangman in the Mirror

The Hangman in the MirrorThe Hangman in the Mirror by Kate Cayley
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Published: July 7th 2011 by Annick Press
Source: NetGalley
SummaryFrançoise Laurent has never had an easy life. The only surviving child of a destitute washerwoman and wayward soldier, she must rely only on herself to get by. When her parents die suddenly from the smallpox ravishing New France, Françoise sees it as a chance to escape the life she thought she was trapped in.  
Seizing her newfound opportunity, Françoise takes a job as an aide to the wife of a wealthy fur trader. The poverty-ridden world she knew transforms into a strange new world full of privilege and fine things -- and of never having to beg for food. But Françoise's relationships with the other servants in Madame Pommereau's house are tenuous, and Madame Pommereau isn't an easy woman to work for. When Françoise is caught stealing a pair of her mistress's beautiful gloves, she faces a future even worse than she could have imagined: thrown in jail, she is sentenced to death by hanging. Once again, Françoise is left to her own devices to survive . . . Is she cunning enough to convince the prisoner in the cell beside her to become the hangman and marry her, which, by law, is the only thing that could save her life?
Based on an actual story and filled with illuminating historical detail, The Hangman in the Mirror transports readers to the harsh landscape of a new land that is filled with even harsher class divisions and injustices.

I absolutely loved it that this book was based on true facts, and it was the reason why I requested it from NetGalley. It didn't really reach my expectations, or my expectations were wrong in the first place, but oh well...

This book is beautifully written. The beauty and smoothness of the prose captured me from the very beginning. Kate Cayley's writing feels like liquid misery and heartache. It's so easy to get lost in her words, and in the bottom line, that's what this book is about-the power of words. A big plus from me on that aspect.

The main character, Francoise, is a unique character; strong-willed, obstinate, a survivor in a world where it's unlikely for a girl like her to get out of the slump she was born into. Does it make her a likable person? In the beginning, I was rooting for her, and my eyes filled with tears while reading about the hardships of her position. But eventually, when she committed the crime that eventually got her into prison and sentenced to death, I took a step back. First of all, I didn't understand her motivation to do it, especially when she had so many chances to undo it. Second, I wasn't convinced into her story (by the way, there's a thin line between stories and lies. At some point I lost the ability to tell Francoise's stories and lies apart). Is she a manipulator? That question is still floating in my head. I'm torn; great job, Francoise, you saved your life. Shame on you, Francoise, if you only told a "story" to escape death.

I know that the author, having based the story on actual facts, didn't have so much freedom to add twists and surprises, but I really expected a bit more. The identity of the hangman was apparent from the beginning, yet I kept hoping for a twist. Surely that's not all there is to the book-waiting for the resolution that's obvious from the word go? Well, actually, yes. That's all there is to the story.

I would recommend this book for its beautiful writing and a character that will have you guessing, but if you're looking for a meaty story, this will seem thin and lacking.

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