The Hangman in the Mirror by Kate CayleyThe Hangman in the Mirror by Kate Cayley

The Hangman in the Mirror

byKate Cayley

Paperback | July 7, 2011

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A strong-willed 16-year-old girl fights for survival in 18th-century North America.

Françoise Laurent has never had an easy life. The only surviving child of a destitute washerwoman and wayward soldier, she must rely only on herself to get by. When her parents die suddenly from the smallpox ravishing New France, Françoise sees it as a chance to escape the life she thought she was trapped in.

Seizing her newfound opportunity, Françoise takes a job as an aide to the wife of a wealthy fur trader. The poverty-ridden world she knew transforms into a strange new world full of privilege and fine things -- and of never having to beg for food. But Françoise's relationships with the other servants in Madame Pommereau's house are tenuous, and Madame Pommereau isn't an easy woman to work for. When Françoise is caught stealing a pair of her mistress's beautiful gloves, she faces a future even worse than she could have imagined: thrown in jail, she is sentenced to death by hanging. Once again, Françoise is left to her own devices to survive . . . Is she cunning enough to convince the prisoner in the cell beside her to become the hangman and marry her, which, by law, is the only thing that could save her life?

Based on an actual story and filled with illuminating historical detail, The Hangman in the Mirror transports readers to the harsh landscape of a new land that is filled with even harsher class divisions and injustices.

Kate Cayley is the artistic director and co-founder of For Stranger Theatre. The Hangman in the Mirror is her first novel for young adults. Her writing, including poetry and short fiction, has appeared in a variety of literary magazines. She is currently the writer in residence at the Tarragon Theatre in Toronto, Ontario. Kate C...
Title:The Hangman in the MirrorFormat:PaperbackDimensions:232 pages, 8 × 5 × 0.62 inPublished:July 7, 2011Publisher:Annick PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:1554513561

ISBN - 13:9781554513567

Appropriate for ages: 12


Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent read for 11+ to adult The Hangman in the Mirror, by Kate Cayley, presents the reader with a social commentary on life in New France in 1751 as seen through the eyes of 15-year old Francoise Laurent, a poor girl struggling to break out of crushing poverty. For the young adult reader to whom this story is geared, the book makes a wonderful addition to history class by bringing to light some of the social issues of the day. Born to a drunken, gambling father and a Parisian prostitute who came to New France in search of a husband and to escape her own troubles, Francoise yearns to better herself and to avoid her parents’ fate. Following her parents’ death from measles, Francoise finds employment as a maid to Madame Pommereau, wife of a well to do Montreal merchant. Tempted by the wealth around her, she steals a pair of finely beaded gloves, is caught, put on trial and sentenced to death by hanging. Throughout the story, the details about life in New France from the grinding work available to the poor, the lack of food and proper clothing for the biting winters, and the lack of hygiene, show the reader how hard life was in Montreal 350 years ago. The poverty of the masses is cleverly contrasted with the wealth of the merchant class who seem unaware and uncaring about the plight of the poor. On her first day of work for Madame Pommereau, Francoise is shocked by the waste of good food for the sake of appearing lady-like. “I wiped my mouth and hands on one of the white napkins. I did not want her to think me coarse. If that is what it took to be well-bred, I would do my best to try. Yet underneath, something in my spirit revolted in disgust as I looked at the lovely food that would be wasted.” The book also touches on the tough-love politics of the time by presenting Monsieur Pommereau’s view of the proper order of society. Ultimately, the harsh sentence Francoise received is an attempt by the state to exert control over the masses, to ensure that they bend to the will of the powerful in the society and offer them complete obedience. Cayley does refer tangentially to the potential for revolution which encourages the reader to think back to the even more egregious social circumstances in the motherland and the resulting French Revolution of 1776. Finally, the witty and intelligent Francoise, who was unwilling to live as a pawn for the rich, shows the reader how strength of character and quick thinking can sustain a person through the most difficult circumstances. She uses words and stories to lessen the pain of her life; yet her quick tongue can also get her into trouble as her rocky relationship with the other servants in the Pommereau household will ultimately prove her undoing. The author adeptly parcels out information, laying the groundwork for each subsequent event by introducing characters early on then bringing them back at key parts of the story. We are initially introduced to Mme Pommereau through her maid’s idle chatter at Francoise’s parents’ home early in the book. The market boy who caught her stealing a few vegetables, and whom Francoise sees on her first day of employment, turns out to be her saviour from prison. The Hangman in the Mirror is a wonderful addition to any young person’s library.
Date published: 2013-01-10

Editorial Reviews

A thoroughly engaging story that keeps readers riveted.