Stitch and Bear

A long-running Irish blog with reviews of the best restaurants in Dublin and throughout Ireland. Some wine and cocktails thrown in for good measure!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane - Katherine Howe

Katherine Howe is a descendant of two women accused of witchcraft during the Salem trials of 1692 and this is basis for her debut novel "The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane". I received an ARC copy of the book and was immediately favourably impressed by the artwork and texture of the cover.

Connie Goodwin is a postgraduate student at Harvard who has recently been advanced to candidacy for her PhD in American Colonial history, meaning she now needs to find an original material source upon which to base her thesis. Her supervisor, the elite Manning Chilton, head of department, is applying pressure to choose a topic. On top of all this, Connie's mother Grace, an eccentric new-ager, contacts her and asks Connie to clean out her deceased grandmother's house in the town of Marblehead.

It is while cleaning out the ancient house that Connie stumbles upon a little mystery. Hidden inside the pages of an old family bible, she finds an old key with a hollow shaft in which is a rolled-up piece of paper bearing the words "Deliverance Dane". This discovery places Connie on a voyage of discovery, both historical and personal.

Howe skillfully draws on her impressive knowledge of colonial America to create a novel which moves between the modern day and the days surrounding the Salem Witch Trials. It is testament to her ability that while you are reading one side of the story, you are eagerly anticipating the events to come in the other side. Howe has also taken a distinct and fresh perspective on this terrible history and uses it to explore the roles of "cunning" women (women typically skilled in herbal lore and medicine) who have often been persecuted as witches throughout the years. It is ultimately a story about self-discovery and family and a very enjoyable read.


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