Being young and in love but apart is the best of times and the worst of times. The anticipation of being together is wonderful, each letter brings a surge of optimism but the on-going trial of being separated by distance can seem impossible to overcome.
For Susanna and Will these challenges are doubly difficult to bear. She is in Shropshire and he is in London, it is 1665 and there is no National Express coach to bring them together.
To make matters worse just as they were about to be joined reunited and married the plague breaks out in London, trapping Will in the festering, sickening city.
And like all young couples, the affairs of love are never smooth, a misunderstanding when they finally meet threatens the whole relationship.
If these were the only challenges this young couple had to face then Ann Turnbull’s follow-up to the Whitbread-shortlisted No Shame, No Fear would still be a tale and a half.
However, there’s a further level of complexity. Susanna and Will are Quakers ‘ dissenters from religious orthodoxy, a vulnerable position in the febrile climate of the mid-Seventeenth century.
Forged in the Fire is rich with details about the sufferings of the Quakers. Will spends time in Newgate prison, a group of Quakers face transportation to the West Indies while on-going persecution is an everyday fact of life.
The climax of the tale coincides with the Great Fire of London and the risk that everything Will and Susanna have worked for will be destroyed.
This is a compelling story of life in uncertain times and an excellent portrayal of life in a minority community for readers aged 12 and over.