The Hanged Woman’s Daughter by Nellie P. Strowbridge

At just 17 years of age, young Bridget Snow of Salmon Cove dreamt of a future with her true love Neddie Noseworthy of Cupids. Even in 1833, stealing brief moments to capture glances, giggle and swoon over the object of one’s affection was part and parcel of what all adolescent girls desired. However, such young love was not to be for poor Biddy, as her brothers and sisters often called her. Thrust into an unimagined nightmare with the disappearance of her father John, the jailing and subsequent hanging of her mother Catherine, and the scattering of her six younger siblings by the cold-hearted Magistrate, Bridget is left feeling desolate and estranged. In a melancholic moment of sanity, Bridget takes to her father’s boat to distance herself from the place and the people that have now abandoned and shunned her, a place she once called home. Rowing into the dark open ocean, unsure of where she is going or even who she is, Bridget discovers the possibility of a new life from a chance encounter with a stranger.

The Hanged Woman’s Daughter by award-winning author Nellie P. Strowbridge is a poignant story of love lost and love found. Knowing that the story is based upon real individuals and real events during a time when Newfoundland was a colony of Britain settled largely by English Protestants and Irish Catholics makes this tale especially enthralling. Strowbridge does a superb job in developing the authenticity of the characters through their dialogue, interactions and thoughts. One of the aspects of this novel that I particularly enjoyed was the thick Irish brogue that was spoken by the characters. I often caught myself, in character, as I read.

It was an effort for her to bring her voice out of it’s grogginess. Finally, she answered, “Not a bit, though I’ve a notion I’m dreamin.”

        “That you’re not,” he said. “If it’d rained, you’d have been drenched to the skin and cold.”

        Bridget pulled herself erect and told him, “No fears o’that. Last night the sky was lit by a full moon.”

        The stranger pursed his lips, tapped them with his finger, and asked, “Well who is yer a’tall?”

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The rich imagery and descriptive, almost poetic, phrases that Strowbridge uses throughout the entirety of the novel allow the reader to experience outport life as Bridget would have experienced it. Having hiked the trails of Cupids, and picked berries on Spectacle Head and travelled the footpaths to Salmon Cove during the summer months myself, I was captivated by the author’s vivid descriptions and could easily visualize the scenery that I had experienced. Below is the author’s description of a not-so-pleasant time in Bridget’s story.

The barest of hope remained a buffer against her apprehension as wind sent curtains of snow across the water, the sea a ravenous creature, swallowing the snowflakes as they fell. A couple of scraggy trees near the wharf twisted in the wind, their branches lifted like skeletal fingers as if to scrape away clouds darkening the sky. Nearby, a spruce tree lifted snow-covered branches like a polar bear lifting its paws. By afternoon, the sun was like a blemished eye below an overhanging brow.

The Hanged Woman’s Daughter is a novel that embodies the human condition, exemplifying the quote that we are all familiar with; that which does not kill us makes us stronger. This is a compelling narrative that has left me thirsting for more information; wondering about Bridget, her siblings and their descendants. For now, however, I will settle with getting my hands on a copy of Nellie P. Strowbridge’s earlier novel published in 2009 entitled Catherine Snow.

Nellie P. Strowbridge is one of Newfoundland and Labrador’s most beloved, prolific, and respected authors. She is the winner of provincial and national awards and has been published nationally and internationally. Her work is capsuled in the National Archives as this province’s winner in Canada’s Stamp of Approval Award for a letter written to Canada 2117. A former columnist, editorial writer, essayist, and award-winning poet, Strowbridge has won the NL Arts and Letters Awards a record seventeen times.

  • Publisher : Flanker Press (March 10 2021)
  • Language : English
  • Paperback : 231 pages
  • ISBN-10 : 1774570246
  • ISBN-13 : 978-1774570241

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Stephanie Collins is a retired school administrator and teacher from Mount Pearl, Newfoundland. A lover of literature and an avid reader, Stephanie loves travelling, outdoor activities, and riding shotgun in her RV or on the back of a motorcycle. Stephanie enjoys writing about her travels, reviewing new titles, and is an aspiring children’s book writer. Her reviews can be found atFireside Collectionsand you can follow her on Twitter @MrsCollinsNL.