The Road to Newgate
by Kate Braithwaite
Publication Date: July 16th 2018
Crooked Cat Books
Paperback & eBook; 280 Pages
The Book Junkie Reads . . . Review of . . . THE ROAD TO NEWGATE . . . This was an intense and intriguing journey on the price of justice in 17th century London, England and the cost it would be to those caught up in an wild set of circumstances and conjecture. The plot rich and gripping. The characters strong, intense, layered, flawed, righteous. The overall picture drawn of the time and place sends tingles up you senses. The words come off the page and have you feeling as if you are present in that history of London. You get caught up in the sights, sounds, and feelings of the era that you want to slow the read down so that you can enjoy being in another time and place for a bit longer, but at the same time you want to get out of it from the turmoil, filthy, and all that went along with that time period.
I found the read to be excellently written, filled with facts and hints of fiction, intensely inviting characters (primary and secondary), eye-catching building of the mind to step back in time to the 17th century. Highly recommend this for those looking for a bit of intrigue, mystery and history.
What price justice?
Titus Oates, an unknown preacher, creates panic with wild stories of a Catholic uprising against Charles II. The murder of a prominent Protestant magistrate appears to confirm that the Popish Plot is real.
Only Nathaniel Thompson, writer and Licenser of the Presses, instinctively doubts Oates’s revelations. Even his young wife, Anne, is not so sure. And neither know that their friend William Smith has personal history with Titus Oates.
When Nathaniel takes a public stand, questioning the plot and Oates’s integrity, the consequences threaten them all.
"Moved me greatly and brought tears to my eyes. Gripping, moving and brilliantly captures this tense and sometimes brutal episode in late seventeenth-century English history." -Andrea Zuvich, Author & Historian
"A real pleasure to read," -Denis Bock, author of The Ash Garden & The Communist's Daughter
"Meticulously researched, vividly imagined, and deftly plotted. Rich, resonating and relevant." -Catherine Hokin, author of Blood & Roses, the story of Margaret of Anjou.
No one will tell me what charges I face, but they are serious enough that the Keeper of Newgate raises an eyebrow and whistles when he looks at the paperwork the soldiers give him. He tells me I may send no messages and will receive no visitors. I’m manhandled into a large dark room and sold a candle that costs me nearly every shilling I have on my person. Then I’m left to find a space for myself in the gloom. Men, little more than bundles of misery and rags, huddle on the floor or on narrow boards fixed to the wall. The smell of excrement is overpowering. I find a gap in a far corner and lean into it as my stomach heaves and sweat breaks out on my forehead. This is the condemned hold.
Mercifully, I do not spend many hours here. Someone – Nat, I assume – visits the Keeper and pays for my swift removal and elevation to a cell upstairs on the Masters’ side of the prison. At first, I chaff at the irons at my wrists and respond to any sound of movement outside my cell, expecting release at any second. I pray fervently, but in vain. No-one comes, and my optimism that this was a mistake soon to be rectified, bleeds away. By evening, my mood is as dark as the patch of sky visible through the window above my head.
Three days and nights pass like this. Fear turns my bowels to water. I barely sleep, tormented by skittering beetles and the lice I imagine creeping across my skin, into my mouth, my eyes. I try to steel myself and bear this trial with patience and fortitude, but the injustice, the indignity, and above all the fear of the unknown, infects my thoughts. My heart hurts in my chest. Weak tears and snot warm my cheeks. My mind is in chaos and I can’t rein in my despair.
And then suddenly the cell door opens. I am taken to a larger, cleaner, lighter room, furnished with only a table and two chairs. I’m told I have a visitor.
It is Titus Oates.
I’ll admit that the first thing I feel is relief.
“By the stars, William,” he declares, striding in. I think he’s about to embrace me, but at the last moment he shrinks back. Instead, his eyes widen, and he fumbles for a handkerchief. “Good God, man. What’s that smell?”
“Me, I suspect. Titus, thank you for coming—”
“Indeed, you ought to thank me!” he says, settling himself in a chair and indicating that I should sit across the table from him. “It is not everyone who can visit prisoners such as yourself without considerable outlay, or indeed risk to their own reputation.”
“Risk? I don’t even know what I’m charged with.”
“Sedition, Schoolmaster. Although after this—”
“What are you saying? Sedition? I’ve done nothing.”
“Of course not, William. Of course not. No-one who knows you could think otherwise. And doubtless, in a few months when no evidence is found—”
“—then you will be released. But I doubt the Merchant Taylor School will look favourably on such an episode.”
His voice trails off.
“My God, Titus. What are you saying? My whole life is tied up in my work, in that school.”
“I suppose it must be.” He walks to the door so his expression is hidden, but when he turns he is laughing. “Oh, you poor man. Would that I had a glass so you could look at your own face. You know, I never liked you. You know that, don’t you?” He goes to peer out of the narrow window.
“You were a woeful teacher,” he says, casting me that sly grin I remember all too well. “Always choosing favourites. Soft when you should have been strict. Criticising when you should have been helping. Unfair.”
“Really?” Tired and terrified as I am, there is something remarkably familiar about this. Titus is a bully. And as a teacher, I have met my fair share of those. His insults won’t touch me. But I am beginning to wonder what he wants.
“None of the boys liked you. Oh, some would pretend, but that was only because they wanted to please their parents with your good report. We would talk about you after school, you know. The boys you liked particularly. They would laugh about you. They would say how you would—”
Titus doesn’t like that. He turns and walks back to the table. Leaning down, he spreads his fat fingers on the wood, and his large face looms toward mine. Beer has soured his breath.
“You don’t tell me, ‘enough’. Not any more. Do you hear me? You need to know who I am these days. Who I’ve become.”
Tiredness washes over me. “Tell me,” I say. He will not be satisfied otherwise, I am certain.
Kate Braithwaite grew up in Edinburgh but has lived in various parts of the UK, in Canada and the US. Her first novel, CHARLATAN, was long-listed for the Mslexia New Novel Award and the Historical Novel Society Novel Award in 2015. Her next book, THE ROAD TO NEWGATE was released on July 16, 2018. Kate and her family live in West Chester, Pennsylvania.
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Thursday, January 10 Review & Excerpt at The Book Junkie Reads
Friday, January 11 Review at Passages to the Past
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