Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Daughters of the Witching Hill - Mary Sharratt

Author Mary Sharrat moved to the Pendle region in England seven years ago. On learning the history of the area, she began to research the infamous 1612 Pendle Witch trials. Based on actual court transcripts from that time, Daughters of the Witching Hill was born.

Sharrat has chosen Bess, also known as Mother Demdike as the main character. She lives with her daughter, son and granddaughters in the Pendle Forest. They are impoverished, but as Bess begins to discover her powers to heal sick animals and humans alike, to predict the future, their lot in life improves. Bess focuses only on helping and healing. Her grand-daughter Alizon also seems to have the gift. Mother Demdike's childhood friend Anne begs her to teach her the 'cunning' ways. But Anne is not honourable as Mother Demdike. She begins to use dark magic to take revenge on others. Situations escalate until Mother Demdike and 11 others stand accused of witchcraft by a man determined to make his name as a witch finder.

Sharratt paints a detailed picture of the landscape and society at the time. The hand to mouth existence of the less fortunate and the obligation of those better off to help - as they see fit. Everyday details of homes and chores bring the locale to life. But it is the relationships between the women themselves that are the focal point. Mother Demdike is an incredibly strong woman. Her fortitude, her beliefs, her desire to do the right thing make her a strong and sympathetic protagonist. Althoughtthe bond between Mother Demdike and Anne has existed from childhood, I disliked Anne from the very beginning. The second half of the book is told from the viewpoint of Alizon. She does not yet have the control that her grandmother does and this contributes to their downfall. The suspicion that is directed towards Mary and her family is inevitable, but I felt a real sense of sadness, having become quite invested in Mother Demdike and knowing that this had really occurred.

I found the differences between 'cunning' and healing and the mental idea we have of 'witches'and magic to be quite interesting. Join A Bookworm's World tomorrow as author Mary Sharratt guest posts on just that subject. And I'll have a copy of Daughters of the Witching Hill to giveaway as well!

Sharrat has blended fact with fiction to create an absolutely a fascinating, bewitching read, one I couldn't put it down. The end is inevitable, but the journey there is a highly enjoyable one.If you enjoyed The Heretic's Daughter or The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane, you'll want to read Daughters of the Witching Hill.

Read an excerpt of Daughters of the Witching Hill.

Check out the book trailer on You Tube video . Or Mary discussing her book on this video.

Enter the giveaway to win a copy for yourself!


Hannah Stoneham said...

What an interesting book this sounds - a fascinating approach to a pretty dark and confusing history. Looking forward to the post tomorrow!

thanks for sharing


bermudaonion said...

This book sounds fascinating!