Annette Colgan

 

Annette works in Theatre in Education but she has recently gained a creative writing qualification from the prestigious University of East Anglia.  Her first novel for children is THE PAUPER’S PALACE.

The year is 1856 in rural Norfolk.   Mercy May is twelve years old, the daughter of  an agricultural labourer, Josiah, a Head Pigman  She lives in a tied cottage with her mother (Elizabeth) and younger brother (Abel) aged ten.

The family fortunes change dramatically when Josiah’s leg is crushed by a pig.  His leg is broken and  as the days  go by it becomes obvious that Josiah will not work again.  With no work and no home they are destitute.  They have no alternative but to enter the worrkhouse.    The family’s few possessions are sold and they enter the workhouse at Gressenhall., known by the locals as The Pauper’s Palace

Mercy, her mother and Abel are stripped, bathed, dressed in the workhouse uniform and separated from each other. They will be reunited for an hour each Sunday.  For the first time in her life Mercy is separated from her family.   This marks the beginning of Mercy's unforgettable journey of separation and loneliness.  But she is a bright, careful and friendly girl and manages to survive bullying, isolation and deprivation.  She becomes best friends with Mary Anne and the two are inseparable until Mary Anne has the opportunity to leave for Canada.  Now  Mercy is faced with a terrible decision – should she stay in England with her mother and brother or go with her friend and a new life in Canada?

The workhouse at Gressenhall does exist and today is a popular museum. Some of the characters in the novel actually existed others have been invented. In the best-selling tradition of Hetty Feather, this is a historical novel which will truly capture the imagination of its readers.