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A Measure of Light: A Novel by Beth Powning
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A Measure of Light: A Novel (2015)

by Beth Powning

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I found this to be an excellent book - as I would have expected for this remarkable Canadian author. Not only is it a pleasure to read but it is a really thoroughly researched (as far as I could tell) documentation of a crucial time in western history. Well, I guess there are any number of 'crucial' times in history, but this was certainly a significant period for the ex-European inhabitants of America, and undeniably important in religious history for both the Quaker movement and the Church of England. Further, it is a personal story about a woman whose courage of belief gave her the power to put truth and justice ahead of her own family, and even her own life. Sure, I needed a dictionary next to me as I encountered words such as ruff, andiron, shallop, nookick, trencher, coif, bole, sachem, pequot, and maul - and heaps more! - but this gave the story an unpretentious authenticity that provided an essential part of its appeal. I had to get my copy sent from overseas due to the abject failure of Penguin Random House to provide a decent service to this distant ex-colonial outpost. I hear Ms Powning is working on a new novel now - stand by for another overseas order, Abebooks! ( )
  oldblack | Jul 12, 2016 |
A Measure of Light is a dark, shatteringly exquisite book ...Prose-wise, there isn’t a page in A Measure of Light where something extraordinary doesn’t happen. Like a method actor, Powning has infiltrated Mary’s world so completely that she seems to write from squarely within its walls....It’s been suggested that Canadians embrace historical fiction because we’re insecure about our putatively drab, uneventful history. That one of the finest books in the genre to come along in ages should be about the birth of the country that’s the wellspring of so much of that insecurity is, then, both ironic and entirely fitting.
 
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Epigraph
I have labored carefully, not to mock, lament, or execrate, but to understand human actions....

SPINOZA Tractus Theologico-Politicus, 1677
Dedication
To my mother, Alison Brown Davis, with love
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Snowflakes blew up the Thames on an east wind.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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amazon ca :Product Description
With Beth Powning’s trademark elegance and insight into the hearts and minds of unforgettable women, A Measure of Light brings to life an extraordinary historical figure.

Mary Dyer is a seventeenth-century Puritan who flees persecution in England, only to find the colony of Massachusetts Bay as dangerous as the country she left behind. Though she is the wife of a successful merchant and mother to their children, she becomes stigmatized following a birth gone terribly wrong and is reviled as a friend to the infamous heretic Anne Hutchinson. Mary tries to accept New England’s harsh realities, but is out­raged by the cold-hearted Puritan magistrates, with their doctrinaire stranglehold on church and state, their sub­jugation of women, their wars against the natives in the surrounding territories and their vicious treatment of any who challenge their rule.

Mary becomes one of America’s first Quakers. As both outcast and privileged citizen, caught between the call­ings of faith and the ambitions of her husband, she comes to the realization that she must follow her convictions in order to bring an end to the brutal repression of the Quakers in Massachusetts, for whom death by hanging is the ultimate punishment.

From Mary’s relationship with Anne Hutchinson to her fiery exchanges with the colonial magistrates, A Measure of Light is both a sensitive work of imagi­nation and meticulously true to the historical record. In this exceptional pairing of author and subject, Mary Dyer receives in the hands of Beth Powning— herself a New England–born Quaker—the full-blooded recognition too long denied a woman of her moral stature and significance in shaping American history.
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"In this brave and passionate novel, Mary Dyer, a little-remembered woman of monumental importance to America's past, is at last given her due in fiction, nearly four hundred years after her story began. English Puritans fleeing persecution, Mary and her husband, William, arrive in the colony of Massachusetts Bay in 1635, where they are welcomed by the howling wolves in the night, the threat of Indian reprisals, and Boston governors who brutally enforce Puritan rule. Settlers seeking freedom in this wild land live in fear, but in Mary's friendship with outspoken religous dissident Anne Hucthinson she finds intellectual solace-beyond the toils of motherhood and domestic life- and the courage to stand up to the colonial magistrates. As one of America's first Quakers, Mary pushes her family, her faith and the magistrates themselves to the brink in pursuit of freedom. And in a final bold act she confronts the deepest cruelty of this new land and alters the course of a nation a century before its birth"--Back cover.… (more)

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