Mr. Wroe's Virgins

By Jane Rogers
(Overlook Press, Hardcover, 9780879517021, 288pp.)

Publication Date: May 1999

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In Lancashire in 1830, when God told prophet John Wroe to comfort himself with seven virgins, his congregation offered him their daughters. Mr. Wroe's Virgins tells the story of the nine months of their life together, until accusations of indecency and the trial that follows bring Wroe's household to a dramatic end.

The seven virgins Wroe chooses for himself include a cripple, a badly beaten mute, and two under-age sisters who can hardly read. The story unfolds through the alternating narration of the three remaining sisters: Joanna "the saint, " Hannah the unbeliever donated by her aunt and uncle, and Leah who secretly mothered an illegitimate son. Though Wroe uses the girls as domestic slaves, this is no simple moral allegory. Jane Rogers plays masterfully upon our expectations rendering Wroe as much an enigmatic and challenging figure to each of the virgins, as he is an with iron-handed patriarch -- ultimately providing each of them powerful lessons in independence.

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