Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Review: Daughters of the Witching Hill by Mary Sharratt

Daughters of the Witching Hill
From the Inside Flap:

Daughters of the Witching Hill brings history to life in a vivid and wrenching account of a family sustained by love as they try to survive the hysteria of a witch-hunt.

Based on actual accounts of the 1612 Lancashire witch trials, Daughters of the Witching Hill tells the tale of cunning woman Bess Southerns, and the talents she passes on to her granddaughter, Alizon. Bess doesn't discover her power until late in life, when her familiar, Tibb, appears to her in the form of a handsome young man. At first, Bess welcomes the opportunity to earn wages and food for her starving family by using her magic for healing. And at first her talents are welcomed by her friends and neighbors, too, and Bess rises to a position of admiration and respect.

"Cunning craft is well different from witchcraft," he said. "Every fool knows that."

Yes, everyone appreciates the talents of a gifted healer, that is until the weather turns, or a bit of bad luck occurs, or someone dies of an unknown affliction, and suddenly there's not much difference between a cunning woman and a witch after all. Events unfold slowly and purposefully as suspicion mounts among the residents of the forest, as fear of witchcraft itself and the fear of being accused of witchcraft finds neighbor turning on neighbor, and family loyalties tested as the line between light and dark is blurred.
This book has some spooky elements that raised the hair on the back of my neck a few times and always present, lying underneath the surface, is the tension of a formerly Catholic village forced to submit to the new religion under Elizabeth, and later James I, who played a large role in inciting the seventeenth-century witchcraft frenzy.
I liked this book. Told in the pleasant and humble voice of Bess and later in the confused and more forceful voice of Alizon, the story has a mystical quality, and the historical context, period detail and rich prose enhance that feeling. My main complaint would be that the narrative moves too slowly, and then when it does finally heat up it it leads to an inevitable, yet undesireable conclusion that just didn't hold resonance for me.
Rating:  3.75 Stars out of 5

*Though I received this book from the publisher, these are my honest and unbiased thoughts, and I was not compensated in any other way for reviewing this book.

1 comment:

  1. I read this one too. I wanted to love it, because it sounded so good. I agree with your rating and also the pace of the book. I still would recommend it and found the history it was based on quite interesting.


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