In 1606 the stupid Jennet is accused of witchcraft and tells her tale to a listening ear. Jennet is comprehensively moronic but the identity of the listener is a good twist. In 1996 actress Abigail and her doomed glamour takes on the role of a lifetime at the behest of her very status conscious awful controlling husband. He crudely undermines her and a loony piece of human flotsam wanders around being simpering and twee and effortlessly judgemental. This is a tale of social constructs, fallibility and enormous social consequences. It is an the origin story of the much vaunted play as well as a retelling that retrofits a much maligned woman and the unreconstructed gender assumptions of a bygone age.
“The scene had finally grunted and lunged to its conclusion.”
“She hates the morals of the nurses.”
“A man of easy morals and rampant fertility.”
“If it’s true what your mother told me and you are kin to me - and I think it may be true, for all she was dim-witted and a slut.”
“A dark terrible future.”
“They’re vile, dark things with venomed tongues.”
“I don’t like your house. There’s evil at work here. Evil and witchcraft.”
“What have I done to offend you?”
“That’s a question you should have asked long ago.”
“Or the wit to understand what others are about.”
The author and the characters don’t find it of pressing relevance that on the 2nd planet women are treated with dismissal and are dispossessed. This novel is sexist, boring, lacks a coherent narrative and reads like a clanging parody of the sterile Regan era TNG. One female on the sexist planet has deep emotions unleashed by her treatment by patronising men and is driven to rage that escalates the already unstable situation. So we have inherently immoral women, combative xenophobic rhetoric, unintended escalation, aliens speaking English, no moral instincts, sexual politics that harken back to the 1950s, copious amounts of clunky dialogue and Riker being totally at ease with patronising rampant misogynists. This was morally indefensible and amazingly stupid.