Top positive review
Beautiful and Poignant
October 27, 2016
Author Christensen has written a beautiful and poignant true-life story of Elizabeth Cellier, a remarkable woman and midwife, who lived in 17th century London. Cellier was a feisty and courageous woman, who, despite great risk to herself and her family, stayed true to her Catholic faith and her belief in justice. She fought against all odds to expose the truth of deplorable prison conditions and lies against Catholics, believed to be plotting against the King.
I was immediately pulled into 17th century England, the culture, politics, and everyday life in an unstable time of religious prejudice, fear, and lack of education. With Christensen’s vivid writing I could picture and feel every scene, from the elegance of the royal palace to the filth and brutality of Newgate Prison, to what it would feel like to lose your freedom in an unjust political system.
Cellier was charitable to those who suffered unjustly, often simply for being debtors or practicing the Catholic faith in a time of Protestant dominance. Author Christensen wrote that Cellier was “true to herself and to truth itself.” Indeed, her faith in God and truth was constant to the point of being willing to die for it.
As a lawyer and litigator, I loved the drama of the two trial scenes when Cellier stood accused, first for treason, then for libel. Brilliant and clever, Cellier learned the laws and courtroom procedures, pulled together required proofs, then used the justice system with spunk and wit against witnesses and lawyers alike. With her quick assessment of jurors, witnesses, and the mood of the “Beast” (the ignorant, blood thirsty mob) she modified her behavior and defense accordingly.
Cellier deplored the poor training of midwives and lack of education for all women. Seeing the brutal effects of ignorance, she chose to do something, not just through charity, but with a grand design for a self-funded midwifery school and home for poor children. She was a woman of strong belief and action, a powerful combination.
There were wonderful descriptions of Cellier’s torn loyalties, to her conscience and moral duty even when it conflicted with her beloved husband Pierre’s wishes, her love of family and her own freedom. The domestic scenes with Pierre and then with her young children were touching, evocative, and among the best in the book.
Author Christensen didn’t fail to show Cellier’s minor flaws, especially when she fell prey to a villainous, betraying rogue, enjoying his youthful good looks and attention to her. Yet this was always balanced with her strong love and respect for her Pierre, her bastion of honor and strength. Pierre, in turn, relied on his beloved Lizzie, needing her love and presence as much as the air he breathed. A beautiful, touching love story!
Author Christensen pulled together voluminous research about Cellier and the era, and has done so brilliantly with a story that is poignant and universal in appeal. I highly recommend this book for the beautiful writing and compelling story, and I look forward to more from Author Christensen.