There Came a Contagion
by Doug Ingold
This title was previously available on NetGalley and is now archived.
Pub Date 01 Jul 2021 | Archive Date 01 Sep 2021
Wolfenden, Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA), Members' Titles
Inspired by events that took place near Trier, Germany late in the sixteenth century, this novel tells the story of the Helgen family, three brothers respected in their village as skilled and resourceful farmers. With their widowed mother, their wives and children, they build a stable if difficult life together raising rye, barley and swine. But when the weather turns erratic and harvests begin to fail, a scapegoat is sought. Jews are banished from the territory as are the followers of Luther and Calvin. The Archbishop then discovers a pestilence of witches: people believed to have forsaken God and sworn allegiance to the Devil. Elsebett Helgen, a midwife and herbal healer, is twenty when the Archbishop’s men arrive in the village.
A Note From the Publisher
"Doug Ingold's novels are masterpieces of time, place and sensibility. The saga of the Helgen family, their friends, relatives and village, their joys and sorrows, is written with the intimacy of someone who you could easily imagine as having lived in 16th century rural Germany. It is a rich, deeply felt immersion."
--Stephen Fox, novelist and historian
“This is an engrossing book that touches on very contemporary themes, even as it transports readers to a remote historical past.”
--Gabrielle Gopinath, writer and critic
Average rating from 10 members
There Came A Contagion by Doug Ingold There Came a Contagion is a work of historical, literary fiction, although inspired by actual events. The setting is the Territory of Trier, Germany, late in the sixteenth century. The reformation is ongoing, but the area has remained Catholic. The land ruled over by an archbishop, who is also a prince and elector of the empire. The Protestant Reformation was the 16th-century religious, political, intellectual and cultural upheaval that splintered Catholic Europe. The novel tells the story of the Helgen family, three brothers Basil, Jacob and Sebastian. The brothers are well thought of in their village as skilled and resourceful farmers. After the death of their father, they, their widowed mother, their wives and children, build a comfortable if difficult life together growing rye and barley. But tragedy Hits the family when Basil's wife Arved dies not long after the birth of their daughter Elsebett. When Elsebett is eight, she leaves the direct care of her grandmother and begins to live and study with Rachel Mueller, a wise woman, a midwife and herbal healer. But the weather turns erratic, and the harvests start to fail, then Archbishop and the prosecutors look for a scapegoat. And so begins a witchhunt that will rip the land and the family Helgen apart. A quote from Doug Ingold's Bio https://www.dougingold.com/bio/ " This latest novel was inspired by a vivid memory my wife had of a previous lifetime". I must say, I pity the lass if she dreamt of these turbulent times. There Came A Contagion is an excellent historical work of fiction. The author has done a remarkable job of painting a vivid picture of the life and times of the period. The novel is well researched and also well crafted. The author produced an awe-inspiring account of a blight that affected much of Europe at the time, albeit, in this case, a fictional one. His characters are far from one-dimensional. You can feel the anxiety, stress, pain and heartache as the Helgen family goes through its trials and tribulations. There Came A Contagion is a passionate portrayal of life under the Reformation. It meanders along at a steady pace, keeping in line with the period. You don't expect it to be a fast-paced thriller when set in the 16th century. I liked this book a great deal. I have read history books about the Reformation and the witch trials in this country(UK), but it's the first time I've come across it in fiction. The writing was wordy and lyrical in places, but you have to remember the subject matter. But it was also quite picturesque in some chapters, which you have to give the author credit for considering the theme. The postscript and sources added to the end of the book are short but of interest. And the author also encourages anyone who uses Wikipedia to drop them a few dollars now and then. There Came A Contagion is an accomplished literary piece of historical fiction. And it the 5-star rating I'm giving it, in my opinion. Thanks to NetGalley and Wolfenden for the ADC of this book.
The story takes place in the 16th century in a village near Trier, Germany. We follow the journey of the Helgen family. It really begins with the birth of a child, Elsebett Helgen, and the death of her mother, Arved, shortly after she gave birth. This little girl becomes the central theme of the story, but her story also serves to describe the darker one of the Trier witch trials. I found this book extremely interesting. Being able to follow a whole family over decades gives a good understanding of the impact of what it is now known as the Grindelwald Fluctuation on people's minds. We get to know the members of this family. We experience with them the emotions they feel. Love, joy, hope, anxiety, pain… Nothing is spared. We see the cracks that appear in them and the other inhabitants of the village when times get tougher. Another very important element of the book is the impact of religion. When a scapegoat is needed to explain the bad harvests, it is found in the form of the Devil. It therefore becomes necessary to chase the Devil away by all possible means. This starts with the ostracization of the Jews and Lutherans and, when this is not enough, the witch-hunt begins. Although this story takes place in the 16th century, it is easy to find similarities with what is happening today. We may know more about certain subjects such as science and climate, but human beings have not changed in one aspect: they still need a scapegoat to explain the things that frighten them. I really enjoyed this book, it is very well written, the descriptions offered by Doug Ingold really allow us to immerse ourselves in this small German village. However, if I had to make one criticism, I found the story a little too "slow paced" for my taste.