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Discussion Module

Newes from the Dead by Mary Hooper

Newes from the Dead:
Being a True Story of Anne Green,
Hanged for Infanticide at Oxford Assizes in 1650,
Restored to the world and died again in 1665

b
y Mary Hooper

Publishing Information: Roaring Brooks Press: New York, 2008
ISBN: 9781596433557 / 9781423392293 (Audio)
Pages
: 263 p.
Ages: 13 & Up

Summary:
In 1650, Ann Greene is accused of murdering her illegitimate child and incarcerated in an abhorrent prison until her trial and sentencing. She is charged with infanticide and executed by hanging. However, Anne does not die; as her body awaits an autopsy, she still exhibits signs of life. The physicians who have gathered to dissect her now struggle to perform medical procedures which will revive her.

Book Talk:
Told with the voices of both Anne, a servant girl accused of murder who has been hung and Robert, a young medical student who has come to observe her autopsy, Newes from the Dead, an historical novel based on actual events, offers the reader insight into Cromwell’s England, with its inherent discrimination against lower classes, its ignorance of scientific medical knowledge and its reprehensible treatment of those accused of crime. The book begins with Anne lying in her coffin, assuming herself to be dead and wondering if she has arrived in Purgatory. Reminiscently, she reflects back on her life in a country manor and the events involving her employer’s grandson, Geoffrey Reade, telling her tale honestly and succinctly. In parallel chapters, Robert is observing the medical men who are present to perform Anne’s dissection. When Robert notices that Anne’s eyelids have moved, he alerts the doctors, who then try to find ways to restore Anne to life.

There is an author’s note at the end of the book, followed by a reproduction of the original pamphlet as it was published in 1651.

Subject Headings & Major Themes:

Executions
Great Britain - History, 1603 - 1714
Household servants
Infanticide
Medicine and Science
Pregnancy and Birth
Prisons
Puritanism and Religion in 17th Century England
Sexual Harassment and Abuse

Awards & Reviews:
USBBY Outstanding International Books, 2009

Booklist, May 1, 2008, p.48
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, May 1, 2008
Horn Book Magazine, May 1, 2008, p.314
Kirkus Reviews, Aril 1, 2008, p.360
Library Media Connection, April/May 2008, p.73
Publishers Weekly, May 12, 2008, p.55
School Library Journal, May 2008, p.126
VOYA: Voice of Youth Advocates, August 1, 2008

Discussion Questions and Ideas:

  1. Anne believes Master Geoffrey’s promise to make her the “lady of the manor,” although her station in life is quite beneath his. Would this “Cinderella” tale have been a credible scenario in 17th century England?
  2. Anne admits in court that she had visited a "cunning woman" for a remedy to terminate her pregnancy; the crowd’s reaction is surprisingly subdued. Was the notion of abortion not considered in the same manner as it is today?
  3. After the midwife testifies that Anne’s baby was not "viable" and could not have lived, why doesn’t the judge dismiss the murder charge?
  4. Dr. Gray asks specific questions of Sir Thomas Reade in court, seeking the name of the deceased infant’s father, which Sir Thomas refuses to provide. Could a similar lack of disclosure happen in our courts presently? Is this privilege of “rank” still relevant
  5. Would it be likely that Sir Thomas’ influence could actually persuade a sworn member of the law to ignore evidence in favor of Anne? Would the courts allow such an obvious travesty?
  6. None of her fellow servants would speak for her in court – would English law have offered them any protection if they had spoken against Sir Thomas’ accusations about Anne’s moral character?
  7.  Do you think it likely that perhaps other ‘corpses’ were not dead at the time of either interment or autopsy?
  8. Some of the remedies proposed by the group of physicians seem quite incredible by today’s standards- a plaster of sheep dung and pitch was used on her chest. What other ideas were discussed for reawakening Anne?
  9. The “execution pamphlet” was quite popular during the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries in England, containing eyewitness accounts, scaffold speeches, personal narratives and other forms of primary source materials. What would be our equivalent today, and is the “news” supplied by these publications deemed reliable?
  10. Reading the original pamphlet at the end of the book, what were your impressions of the author’s interpretation of Anne’s ordeal? Do you think that her characters’ dialogues and descriptions of events were believable?

Related Websites:
Author’s Website: http://www.maryhooper.co.uk/
Elizabethan Executions: http://www.elizabethan-era.org.uk/elizabethan-executions.htm
The Poor in Elizabethan England: http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/poor_in_elizabethan__england.htm

Read-a-Likes:
At the Sign of the Sugared Plum by Mary Hooper, 2003
The Counterfeit Princess
by Jane Resh Thomas, 2005
The Dollmage
by Martine Leavitt, 2001
The Executioner’s Daughter
by Laura Williams, 2000
How the Hangman Lost His Heart by K.M. Grant, 2007
Nine Days a Queen: The Short Life and Reign of Lady Jane Grey
by Ann Rinaldi
, 2004
Petals in the Ashes
by Mary Hooper, 2004
Plain Truth
by Jodi Picoult, 2000
The Remarkable Life and Times of Eliza Rose
by Mary Hooper, 2006
Wheel of the Moon
by Sandra Forrester, 2000
Witch Child by Celia Rees, 2001
Year of Wonders: A Novel of the Plague by Geraldine Brooks, 2001

Other Books by the Author:
Amy, 2002
At the Sign of the Sugared Plum
, 2003
Petals in the Ashes, 2004
The Genie, 2006
Nelson's Home Comforts, 2006
The Remarkable Life and Times of Eliza Rose, 2006
Katie: The Revolting Bridesmaid, 2007
Katie: the Revolting Wedding, 2007
Ways and Tricks of Animals with Stories about Aunt Mary's Pets, 2007
Cookery for Invalids, Persons of Delicate Digestion, and for Children, 2008
The Haunting of Julia, 2008
Katie: The Revolting Holiday, 2008
Little Dinners: How to Serve the with Elegance and Economy, 2008
Two Naughty Angels: Down to Earth, 2008
Two Naughty Angels: Round the Rainbow, 2008
Two Naughty Angels: The Ghoul at School, 2008

About the Author:
Mary Hooper has written more than 60 books for children and young adults, earning high praise as well as the North East Book Award for her YA novel, Megan. She has two grown children and lives with her husband Richard in Oxfordshire, England, the same area Anne Green came from.

A Note from the Author:
MARY HOOPER says, "When I heard Anne Green's story on the car radio, I was absolutely captivated. I went straight home to find out more about her. What a story hers was: she gave birth in the most primitive conditions, then was thrown into a freezing, stinking prison and, later, sentenced to death. She said a said farewell to her family, climbed the scaffold, and then . . . what? Anne was 'dead' for several hours. Where did she go? I immersed myself in the facts, then sat down at my computer. I pictured her in her coffin; I felt I knew what she would want to say. My fingers began to fly across the keys . . ."

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