The Angel Makers (Wheeler Publishing Large Print Hardcover)

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9781410456380: The Angel Makers (Wheeler Publishing Large Print Hardcover)

Teenage Sari's smart, inquisitive nature would be enough to make her an outcast in her remote Hungarian village; add her knowledge of healing herbs and she's considered a witch. Then the men leave to fight World War I. Without their oppression, the women taste freedom. Sari makes friends. She and others even begin relationships with Italian POWs. All this is imperiled when the men return. But just as Sari knows the herbs that heal, she knows those that kill ...

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Review:

Amazon Best Books of the Month, December 2011: The Angel Makers, Jessica Gregson's engrossing debut, fleshes out the bones of a bizarre true story. In a remote Hungarian village, brutish men's departure for World War I offers a welcome reprieve to their women—many have endured regular beatings (and worse). In the years of their husbands' absence, women's friendships deepen, and they find previously unimagined satisfaction in work and romance with Italian prisoners at a camp on the town's outskirts. Even Sari, the clever midwife's assistant suspected of witchcraft, succumbs to the charms of Marco. When Sari's injured fiancé returns from war a changed, frighteningly violent man, she makes a desperate decision to save herself and her unborn baby, poisoning her fiancé slowly enough to avoid detection. But other desperate women take notice, forcing Sari to choose between helping them perform similar deeds and being exposed as a murderess.

In truth, between 45 and 300 people were intentionally poisoned in Nagyrév, Hungary, over 15 years during and after WWI. Gregson's version of events is horrifically plausible and psychologically astute, and Sari makes a surprisingly sympathetic narrator. --Mari Malcolm

Jessica Gregson on The Angel Makers

From the very first moment I came across the story, I knew I had to write about it.

It was just a couple of paragraphs in a true crime paperback I'd picked up in a bored, slightly morbid moment, to read on a train ride. The bulk of the chapters were about lone, crazy serial killers, and so the outline of the events surrounding "The Angel Makers of Nagyrev" stood out. The bare bones of the story were intriguing: a female-driven murder plague in an isolated village, against the backdrop of the First World War. I was astonished that no one had written about it already!

Once I started to write, though, my story started to shift further and further away from what had been the main focus of the story--the murders. The more I wrote, the more interested I became in the part that came before: what could have compelled the real women behind the story to commit actions that seem, from an outside perspective, abhorrent and unforgiveable.

What were these women's lives like? What sorts of conditions might have led them to behave as they did? What was it about that place, and that time, that caused the women to succumb to such a strangely specific madness? I don't intend to excuse the actions of my characters, or the actions of the women on whom they are based, but I do try to show how easy it might be to move, step by step, outside the bonds of morality that keep (most of us) constrained.

About the Author:

Jessica Gregson, 28, has a degree in Anthropology from Cambridge and a Masters in Development from LSE. Jessica has worked as a policy advisor for the home office and a humanitarian worker in Sudan. Jessica has just started a PhD at SOAS in London. Jessica is the author of Angel Makers (2007) and The Ice Cream Army (2009)

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