Scribner, Feb 2001, 23.00, 224 pp.
Fourteen years ago, Dora crossed the Channel to settle in the English village. Dora lived by her own rules, but though a big lady, men wanted her and women befriended her because she was fair and honest. She made her living lying with males. About three years later, the narrator's mother, a midwife, helped Dora give birth to a boy whose father is not known.
Eleven years pass, the boy is big like his mother, but seems a bit slow perhaps because he looks like a man already. However, he reacts like the child he is when Dora dies from what appears to be an accident. The narrator, a maid, beings making inquiries into Dora's death when she learns that her role model of female independence was pregnant and predicted her own death.
BONE HOUSE is a superb look at a remote English seventeenth century village. The story line centers on the roles of townsfolk and the questioning of the prevalent paradigm. The characters as individuals are fully developed and provide a lucid look at the era, but seem off kilter in relation to one another. Still, Betsy Tobin provides a well-written powerful historical fiction that places a magnified look at a bygone era.
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner