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Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe

Genre: Fiction

Copyright:
2009

Pages:
371

Rating: 4/5 Crowns

Synopsis: Connie Goodwin should be spending her summer doing research for her Ph.D. dissertation in American History. But when her mother asks her to handle the sale of Connie's grandmother's abandoned home near Salem, she's compelled to help. One day, while exploring the dusty bookshelves in the study, Connie discovers an ancient key, and within the key is a brittle slip of paper with two words written on it: Deliverance Dane.

Along with a handsome steeplejack named Sam, Connie begins to research Deliverance Dane. But even as the pieces fall into place, Connie is haunted by visions of long ago, and she fears that she is more tied to Salem's dark past than she could have ever imagined.

Written by an author whose ancestors were accused witches in Salem, The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane travels seamlessly between the trials in the 1690s and a modern woman's story of mystery and discovery.

Review: I received this book as an ARC, and quite honestly, I knew nothing about it at first. However, after reading the description of it, I knew right away this is exactly the kind of book that appeals to me. A story woven between the (sort of) present and the past, this book has mystery, suspense, and the plights of women all rolled into one. Who could resist!

The author set this book in 1991 and the late 1600's, which provides a semi-modern view and also a fictionalized version of the Salem Witch Trials in US colonial times. As a life long resident of the Western US, I've always known about the Salem trials, but not a whole lot as we tend to learn about history as it pertains to our region of the country as we're growing up. One thing I love about fiction is the ability to teach while being entertaining, and this book delivers on both fronts. And the setting in 1991, before the internet, makes for a very interesting read as far as Connie's quest to find this elusive book.

In the book, the idea is introduced: what if the witch trials were real? While I do believe that witches are still a metaphor for the unexplained in society, it's a very interesting concept to explore, that to these people, magic really did exist. It's easy to forget that not too long ago, many things were unexplained - science and medicine are relatively new concepts in the scope of humanity. So while to me, the weather is simply something I read about, it really was something magical to these people. Illness, plague, drought - they were all caused by mysterious, unknown sources. And really, that is magic.

Another concept that always appeals to me is the idea of what happens in a society as women gain more power and self awareness. I consider the Salem trials to be a consequence of women evolving in society, and the men reacting in any way they could to regain control. This book firmly keeps the female characters in both self confidence and power, with the men as more outside characters, almost accessories in a sense. In the book, we are supposing that witches are real, and the abilities are passed down to the females of the family. It's not only a powerful method of showing that women have always been more resiliant than men had supposed, but also a nice way to say "Hey sister, you can do it on your own."

To me, the characters were more of a way to drive the plot, but I quite liked them all, and Connie herself reminds me a lot of me. Although I saw a couple of the plot devices coming, the story was very enjoyable and I loved the way it got there. It was suspense without anxiety, my favorite kind. My only complaint is that there wasn't more historical passages, I loved every bit of the sections surrounding the trial. I think this is a very versatile read that can appeal to all kinds of readers, and I encourage everyone to get it from their local bookstore or library. And I, naturally, am keeping my fingers crossed that the author writes a sequel!


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20 comments:

Queen of Romance said...

Thanks for the review!! I am looking forward to reading this book, it sounds captivating!!

Lexie said...

I admit I was looking forward to this book, but I couldn't get very far. Something about it just...grated on my nerves I guess.

It sounds like it worked well for you though and I'm glad!

Dwayne said...

Sounds cool! I'm not inclined much towards History, but mystery are fun :)

Angela said...

I REALLY liked this book! It was definitely my kind of read :-)

Thanks for sharing your thoughts - it was a great review.d

kay - Infinite Shelf said...

I enjoyed this book too! I really loved Connie as a character, like you she reminded me a little of me.

Alaine - Queen of Happy Endings said...

Sounds like a fantastic read! Will add this one to my TBR.

dolleygurl said...

I absolutely loved this book. I have been to Salem several times and have always enjoyed the history. I really enjoyed how there was the interplay between the past and present. Thanks for the review.

Crystal - Princess of Pop Culture said...

Queen of Romance - Thank you! It's really fabulous, I enjoyed it so much! I probably would have read it all in one sitting if I'd had the time :)

Crystal - Princess of Pop Culture said...

Lexie - It started a little slow for me as well, but it had such promise that I continued. I'm so glad I pushed myself past the first couple of chapters, because I really fell in love with it after that. Hopefully it will appeal to you more later!

Crystal - Princess of Pop Culture said...

Dwayne - One of the things that I thought quite appealing about it was the way that it bounced back and forth between history and now. It was a mystery almost to the end, spanning both time periods, and really kept me feeling anxious! I hope you decide to give it a go :)

Donna said...

I really liked this book and it's amazing that this was a NaNo novel!

I live in Connecticut so we're pretty much neck deep in Salem over here.

I've done quite a fair amount of research on the accused and the pattern is actually one of more prevalent members of society attempting to gain control of desired land and property by disposing of the women who had come to own it. Witch accusations were also a means to get rid of plight in Salem. A few of the women were also transient and often "leeched" off of their fellow neighbors or sustenance. The trials only stopped because those crazy little girls started pointing fingers at the "wrong" people, namely high members of society. By the very end of it all (summer), they accused so many people they were nearly being laughed at. Spectral evidence also became a farce by the end of the trials, leading to absolution for the accused because of lack of evidence and all around asshattery.

Magic was an excuse. These were people fresh off of a boat from a Europe where the Inquisition was just dying down. What better way to get people to turn against someone that accuse them of witchcraft? If it got them what they wanted, they were going to do what they felt they needed to do.

Crystal - Princess of Pop Culture said...

Angela - I'm so glad to hear it...I felt like it was exactly my kind of book too, but a total surprise at the same time! I love hearing about other people who like it!

Crystal - Princess of Pop Culture said...

Kay - Glad you liked it!!! I think that's one of the really appealing things about Connie, that she is interesting, yet still enough of an every woman's woman that a lot of people will be able to identify with her.

Crystal - Princess of Pop Culture said...

Alaine - It was really great, I was almost surprised at how well I liked it given that I didn't know anything about it at the start. I hope you enjoy it when you read it :)

Crystal - Princess of Pop Culture said...

dolleygurl - I'm so glad you liked it! I've never been to Salem, but the book really made me want to go and experience the culture for myself. I work with a lady that grew up not far from there, and we had a great time talking about the area - her side from experience, mine from reading the book

Crystal - Princess of Pop Culture said...

Donna - I totally agree, I found it amazing that it was a NaNo novel! And I think it's fantastic that someone not only finished their novel, but actually got publication out of it!!!

I'm very intrigued by the research you've done on the topic...I want to read more about the entire spectacle, both in a fictional forum and legitimate history. I'm actually thinking about planning a trip out to Salem within the next year or so, I feel so disconnected from the whole thing and I really want to learn more about it.

Thanks for the great background about the trials!

Maxine said...

This sounds great. Thanks for the review.

misskallie2000 said...

Thanks for the review. This book does sound very interesting.

Crystal - Princess of Pop Culture said...

Maxine - Thank you!!! It really is a good book, I'm recommending it to pretty much everyone I know :)

Crystal - Princess of Pop Culture said...

misskallie2000 - You're welcome! It's totally interesting, I encourage everyone to read it!