Sins as Red as Scarlet

(4 customer reviews)



Sins as Red as Scarlet by Janet Few

It is 1682. Across the land, the Age of Reason has begun; scientific thought is ousting superstitious belief. The menacing days of the witchfinder have all but gone. Nevertheless, in Devon’s county town, three impoverished women from Byddeforde are condemned to death for the crime of witchcraft. In Byddeforde we find the rich merchants, the flourishing tobacco warehouses and the bustle of ships setting sail for the Newfoundland cod-banks. Yet, barely hidden, are layers of intolerance and antagonism that have built up over decades. Sins as Red as Scarlet is the unfolding of the lives of those whose prejudices and fears were shaped by the turmoil of plague, of war and of religious dissent.
In an alternative 2020, sixteen-year-old Martha, herself a bullies’ target, undertakes a school local history project. Probing the motivations and beliefs of Bideford’s seventeenth century residents, Martha comes to understand how past events might lead ordinary people to become the victims, the accusers, or the accused.



4 reviews for Sins as Red as Scarlet

  1. Sue Nickels

    An enlightening and enjoyable read, thoroughly recommended.
    Living in Exeter and having visited Bideford on several occasions I had heard of the ‘Bideford Witches’ but had never really looked into their story. This excellent book, painstakingly researched and superbly written, has given me a real insight into the lives of the people of Bideford during that turbulent period in the 1600s where religious differences dominated everyday life and where those of the ‘wrong’ class or gender, mental capacity or way of thinking were most likely to be the victims of intolerance and derision.
    The story of the lovely teenager Martha and her experiences of modern-day bullying told alongside that of the persecuted ‘witches’ brings a stark reminder that there are ignorant, unkind or altogether malicious people who get swept along with the crowd in whatever age we live, and it takes a strong character to conquer their own fears and stand up to the tormentors and fight for what they believe in.
    I thoroughly recommend this book for the detailed insight it gives into a period of British history many of us probably know little about and also because it’s a tale that tugs at the heartstrings as we sympathise with the seventeenth century Devon folk living in such difficult times and also relate to the issues experienced by young people today who feel their lives are so exposed in these times of widespread social media usage.

  2. Su Marsh

    I have read and enjoyed Sins as red as scarlet. Coming from Bideford, but now living in Exeter it was great to read about the witches so called. Also to read about life in those times, Janet Few did the research and made an enjoyable history lesson, while telling a story.
    I would recommend this book and will certainly be getting Barefoot on the cobbles as Clovelly is a place I enjoy visiting most summers

  3. Anna Webb

    I have just finished reading ‘Sins as Red as Scarlet’ written by Janet Few.
    The parallels with today and the seventeenth century are striking in the way that they are portrayed. The persecution of ‘witches’, the bullying today on the internet; queues for bread at almshouses and the food banks of today. A very enjoyable and interesting read.

  4. Sandy Fish

    This is a brilliant and well researched historical novel by Janet Few – the highly regarded genealogist. It gives us the backstory and circumstances that determined the fate of three impoverished Bideford women who subsequently hanged in the belief that they were witches.
    Through the clearly sign posted narrative, we walk alongside the wealthy merchants prospering at the expense of those who lived in disease and squalor as they struggled to earn a coin or a crust.
    Janet Few pens the language of the day as though she had merely stepped through the ivy clad archway at the bottom of her garden to walk alongside our ancestors. She puts flesh on the bones of the dead and breathes life across the page. And then in a masterstroke of storytelling, we step into the present-day footsteps of a teenage outcast. Who treads her own tortured path through the image conscious social media world until history sets her free.
    I have enjoyed this book immensely, and probably learnt more about 17th C England than I ever did from my 4 years of history O Level. But more than that, this is a joy to read; well directed, lyrical and enlightening.
    Janet Few is an author who brims with a rich heart of mahogany warmth. her words print the page with kindness, empathy and a deep understanding for each character that she so eloquently brings to life.

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