Thursday, May 6, 2010

The Daughters of the Witching Hill by Mary Sharratt

The 1612 Lancashire, England, witch trials that resulted in nine executions inspired Sharratt's gorgeously imagined novel that wonders if some of the accusations of witchcraft might be true. This book focuses on the Southerns family of Pendle Forest. Widowed mother Bess Southerns tries to save her family from bleakest poverty by healing the sick, telling fortunes, and blessing those facing misfortune, conjuring charmes that combine forbidden Catholic ritual, medicinal herbs, and guidance provided by her spirit-friend, Tibb.

Though Bess compassionately uses her powers, her granddaughter, Alizon, unwittingly endangers her family while under the interrogation of a conniving local magistrate. Sharratt crafts her complex yet credible account by seamlessly blending historical fact, modern psychology, and vivid evocations of the daily life of the poor whose only hope of empowerment lay in the black arts. Set in forests and towers, farms and villages, deep in a dungeon and on the gallows, this novel grows darker as it approaches its inevitable conclusion, but proves uplifting in its portrayal of women who persevere, and mothers and daughters who forgive.

This is not the type of book I ever would have picked up were it not for Andrea picking it for our book club.  Gotta love book clubs and their exposing you to new genres/authors.

Rating: 4.7 Recommend