Books & Literature

Book Review: The Frozen River, by Ariel Lawhon

HISTORICAL FICTION: From the bestselling author of Code Name Hélène comes a gripping historical mystery inspired by the life and diary of Martha Ballard, a renowned 18th-century midwife who investigates a shocking murder that unhinges her small community.

Layers of love, intrigue, and justice; a historical piece, a story of resilience to be savoured.

Feature image credit: Simon & Schuster

Listen closely, dear reader, for I am about to guide you through the secrets that linger in the shadowy corners of Ariel Lawhon’s period mystery murder, The Frozen River. Set against the brooding backdrop of Hollowell, Maine, in the late 1700s, this tale is more than a narrative — it’s a whispered confession, shared honestly with those who dare to tread its pages.

At its core is Martha, the resident midwife and healer, a woman whose story unfolds with all the intrigue of a tightly guarded secret. Lawhon, the weaver of this multi-layered tapestry, employs a meticulous hand, crafting images that are at times heart-stopping and at others heart-wrenching. Her prose is not a mere conveyance of events; it’s an artful dance that draws readers into the very fabric of Martha’s world.

But this is no ordinary tale; it’s a journey through the societal minutiae of the time, set in a smaller mill town at the dawn of the country’s constitutional legal and justice system. The echoes of societal struggles, especially concerning the rights of women, can be confronting, revealing echoes of justices endured by many, today. Lawhon doesn’t shy away from the harsh realities of the era, offering a portrayal that, at times, cuts close to the bone.

Within this historical tapestry, Lawhon masterfully incorporates the smallest details, illuminating the lives of the townsfolk as they grapple with a burgeoning legal system and societal expectations. It’s a delicate dance that unveils the struggles of a community teetering on the precipice of change. The portrayal of Martha, as the local midwife and healer, delves into societal expectations and the formidable weight placed on the shoulders of women who dared to defy norms.

Yet, amidst the shadows, there lies a revelation. Lawhon weaves her narrative with threads of historical information, and the tale itself is inspired by a real woman — a testament to the untold stories that history often overlooks. This is not just a single mystery; it’s a homage to the resilience of those who dared to challenge the status quo or fight for justice in a sometimes corrupt setting.

Now, dear reader, brace yourself, for the final “chapter” holds a secret within a secret — an Author’s Note that unravels the entire narrative. Lawhon advises newcomers to read the complete story before venturing into this note, for it unveils the intricacies of the tale. It’s a literary sleight of hand that invites the reader to dissect the enigma before fully understanding its depths.

In this concluding chapter, Lawhon boldly explains the historical references, revealing the inspiration behind the writing and the personal connection she found with Martha. It’s a matter-of-fact revelation, an open dialogue that enriches the reader’s understanding of the story’s genesis. There’s a genuine connection here, a bridge between the author’s journey and Martha’s, laid bare for those who seek to understand beyond the surface.

While Lawhorn is known for accurate historical pieces, this story, once explained, shows an author with extreme aptitude to understanding and portraying the stories behind the facts. This is a book, dear friends, that is to be experienced not just read.

Reviewed by Leanne Caune

The views expressed in this review belong to the author and not Glam Adelaide, its affiliates, or employees.

Distributed by: Simon & Schuster
Released:  November 2023
RRP: $32.99

More News

To Top