Skip to main content Skip to search Skip to search

Children's Fiction Pre-confederation (to 1867)

The Hangman in the Mirror

by (author) Kate Cayley

Annick Press
Initial publish date
Sep 2011
Pre-Confederation (to 1867)
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Sep 2011
    List Price
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Sep 2011
    List Price

Add it to your shelf

Where to buy it

Out of print

This edition is not currently available in bookstores. Check your local library or search for used copies at Abebooks.


About the author

Kate Cayley is a poet, playwright, and fiction writer living in Toronto. She is the author of one previous poetry collection (When This World Comes to an End, Brick Books), a young adult novel (The Hangman in the Mirror, Annick Press), and a short story collection (How You Were Born, Pedlar Press), which won the 2015 Trillium Book Award and was a finalist for the Governor-General's Award. She has been a playwright-in-residence at Tarragon Theatre in Toronto since 2009, and has written two plays produced by Tarragon, After Akhmatova and The Bakelite Masterpiece.

Kate Cayley's profile page

Editorial Reviews

“… a page-turner on the themes of class distinction, women's friendship, and jealousy. Highly recommended.”—CM Reviews, 11/11

“Playwright Cayley's debut novel is a tense slow burning story, skillfully constructed around a true historical event.”—, 12/12/11

“… does everything good historical fiction should—give the reader a tremendously detailed sense of time and place … through the eyes of a protagonist whose emotions are relatable to a modern audience.”—Foreword Reviews, 10/11

“... it is a very theatrical book: attention is made to set, to perfectly-crafted dialogue, to action, to the beautiful curtain at the end of the beautiful story, leaving the reader/audience breathless with the power of a simple climactic sentence.”—A Fair Substitute for Heaven, 11/21/12

“... Cayley has taken a sliver of Canadian history and filled it out to become a fascinating flash of life in early Montreal.”—Resource Links, 12/11

“... her viewpoint captures history through the brutal daily life of a smart, hungry girl who must learn to be ‘well-bred’...”—, 12/28/11

“With its engaging heroine, keen attention to historical detail and appealing cover, this book would make a great addition to a school library and is a fascinating read for teens ...”—The Canadian Children’s Book Centre, Fall/12

“I'd read this one again; it's that good.”—, 07/27/12

“The author is commended for bringing this intriguing tale into public consciousness ... recommended especially for providing a fascinating glimpse into Canadian history.”—The Deakin Review of Children’s Literature, 10/12

Librarian Reviews

The Hangman in the Mirror

The year is 1751, and the setting is New France in this fascinating new piece of historical fiction by Kate Cayley.

The account of 15-year-old Françoise Laurent’s escape from a sentence of death by hanging is based on a true story. (Using the same set of historical facts, the author wrote and directed the play The Hanging of Françoise Laurent.)

Life isn’t easy when you’re the only daughter in a povertystricken family in eighteenth-century Montreal. Living with an alcoholic father and a mother who takes in the washing of the poor to help the family, means our heroine Françoise knows nothing but hardship and a longing for something better.

When both of her parents suddenly die, Françoise takes a position as a maid to Madame Pommereau, the wife of a wealthy fur trader. Madame Pommereau is not an easy mistress to work for, and life in the Pommereau household is far from pleasant. However, when Françoise is sentenced to death by hanging for stealing a pair of her mistress’s gloves, she has the wherewithal to devise a scheme to escape her fate.

Kate Cayley’s depiction of Françoise’s hardships and adventures truly captures what life was like in New France during this period. Lovers of historical fiction will be fascinated by the details of the lives of the well-to-do and the poor. Particularly impressive are the descriptions of the bustling marketplace and street life of old Montreal.

With its engaging heroine, keen attention to historical detail and appealing cover, this book would make a great addition to a school library and is a fascinating read for teens interested in life in New France. This novel would also be a super contender for the Geoffrey Bilson Award for Historical Fiction for Young People.

Source: The Canadian Children's Bookcentre. Fall 2011. Volume 34 No. 4.

The Hangman in the Mirror

In 18th century New France, Françoise Laurent’s parents die suddenly, and she takes a job as a maid to the wife of a wealthy fur trader. When she is caught stealing the gloves of her mistress, she is condemned to die. Her only escape is to marry the hangman. This novel is based on a true story.

Source: The Canadian Children’s Book Centre. Best Books for Kids & Teens. Fall, 2012.

Other titles by Kate Cayley

Related lists