Friday, January 29, 2010

The Lost Book of Salem

Title: The Lost Book of Salem
Author: Katherine Howe
Category: Hist-fic/Fantasy
Format: Paperback, 480 pages
Published: UK, 2009

From the blurb, I thought this book was going to be about the Salem witch trials that took place in 17th Century America. However, The Lost Book of Salem (also known as The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane) is based more on the idea of actual witches and witchcraft than it is about the trials.

At first, the realisation that this story was not panning out to be what I had expected left me feeling rather disappointed. It wasnt until I had read 100 pages or so that I began to enjoy the story for what it was. After all, it is clearly well-researched, easy to read, and interesting enough to hold attention. Howe's "witch" characters are based on women who were actually accused and tried for witchcraft during the Salem trials, and even though this story is not about the trials per se, it does reveal some interesting facts about the position of women in 17th Century Puritan villages; the methods for determining who was and was not a witch, and how an accused witch was dealt with by her peers; and the devestating impact that mass hysteria can have on minority groups within a community.

I found Howe's writing technique a little rough at the beginning: The story started slow and it felt "choppy", as if some paragraphs were added later as an after-thought. However, as the novel progresses, Howe's writing improves, and it is the last part of this novel that is its saving grace.

The Lost Book of Salem provides an interesting perspective on the story of the witch and her craft, and I recommend this novel on the basis that, despite its minor flaws, it is an otherwise good and easy read.

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