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  • Published: 4 May 2021
  • ISBN: 9781786091178
  • Imprint: Windmill Books
  • Format: Trade Paperback
  • Pages: 384
  • RRP: $37.00

Cunning Women

A feminist tale of forbidden love after the witch trials

A searing story of forbidden love and the curtailing of female wildness set amongst the long shadows cast by the Pendle Witch Trials.

When it is no longer safe to be a witch, they call themselves cunning.

Seventeenth-century Lancashire is a dark and mistrustful place. Ten years after the notorious Pendle witch trials saw ten accused witches hanged, young Sarah Haworth and her family live as outcasts in a ruined hamlet. The inhabitants of the nearby village despise 'cunning folk' like them, but their services - healing balms, herbal remedies - will always be in demand, and they have a way of coming to know all the village's secrets.

A chance meeting sees Sarah become acquainted with Daniel, a young man from the village. In him, she sees a clever, caring man; in her, he sees not the strange, dirty outcast he knows he should, but rather the strong young woman coming into her own.

As they are drawn closer together, a new magistrate arrives in the area to investigate a spate of strange deaths befalling the villagers. Inevitably, his eye falls on Sarah's family, and his hand carries a burning torch. In the face of persecution, something as fragile as love seems impossible...

  • Published: 4 May 2021
  • ISBN: 9781786091178
  • Imprint: Windmill Books
  • Format: Trade Paperback
  • Pages: 384
  • RRP: $37.00

About the author

Elizabeth Lee

Elizabeth Lee won the Curtis Brown Creative Marian Keyes Scholarship, and her work has been selected for the Womentoring Project and Penguin’s WriteNow Live. She lives in Warwickshire.

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Praise for Cunning Women

A haunting tale with a brutal twist.

Emily Brand, author of THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF BYRON

An impressive debut . . . anyone who roots for the underdog will fall for Sarah . . . beautifully relevant.

Kate Mascarenhas

Beautiful, tense (at points breathless!) historical fiction with meticulously researched description. I loved it.

Kate Sawyer, author of THE STRANDING

Wonderfully original . . . devastating . . . and fabulously atmospheric too.

Elodie Harper, author of THE WOLF DEN

The pleasure of the novel lies in the tension between the familiar story of patriarchal injustice and a more complex investigation of supernatural belief and disbelief. It's a thrilling read. But, beyond the thrill, is the beauty of the language. Lancashire dialect and vocabulary are used to immense poetic affect, disarmingly evocative of time and place. The characters too, are well drawn and multi-faceted and its closure is both deeply satisfying and truly sad. A pleasure to read - with an undercurrent of genuine fear.

Annie Garthwaite, author of CECILY

Witches and the dread they inspired are captured here with chilling deftness

Woman and Home

A gorgeous gothic novel ... sure to be loved by fans of The Essex Serpent and The Mercies ... Elizabeth Lee has conjured an engrossing tale of young love and a shattering story of the intolerance that reigned during the long shadow of the Witch Trials.

Northern Life Magazine

This powerful story of forbidden love takes place during a time of persecution after the Pendle witch trials of 1612. At its heart is a wild young woman searching for what life can offer ... A tense and atmospheric ride.

Daily Mail

Elizabeth Lee's historical debut is a powerful tale of love, loyalty and prejudice.


Elizabeth Lee's debut novel is timely in its depiction of hysteria and persecution, and beautifully evokes a historical period poised between dark ignorance and long-overdue enlightenment.


Rich and lyrical


With a painfully unexpected ending, this is a story about loneliness, connection and female rage that fans of intensely atmospheric historical fiction will love.


Elizabeth Lee builds up a powerful atmosphere of menace, with danger lurking around every corner, until the mounting tension builds to boiling point.

Charlotte Heathcote, Daily Express



I loved it. Atmospheric and so good.

Marian Keyes

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