Laura A. (Jeremiah, Kentucky)
"Daughters of the Witching Hill" should have been more interesting than it was. The premise was interesting - an actual witch hunt and trial of a family in the 1580's- but it was very dull and the characters just did not come to life for me.
Peg M. (Durham, NC)
The Good Women of the Witching Hill
Mary Sharratt has taken a piece of English history and made the women and their story come alive. Her occasional use of olde English-language words is initially unsettling but eventually infuses the story with an other-worldliness, without intruding on the narrative itself. Rather, the language is a subtle reminder that we are reading about a time in history when magic was real, and could be used for good or evil.
The story revolves around two ‘cunning’ women and their families. Life is hard, begging for basic sustenance is the norm, and the wealthy have ultimate power over the people who are literally and figuratively beneath them. The Catholic Church is a main character in the story - as an underdog. The Reformation has taken place and the old trappings of the Catholic Church (Latin prayers, saints, rosaries, religious feast days and the Virgin Mary, for example) are forbidden. These once familiar icons and holidays grow in esteem by those who remember them, and are feared by the new generation growing up since their demise and the men who are now power-hungry in their Protestant austereness. The women who continue to call upon Mary and the saints for help are soon transformed in the eyes of the others into witches – their Latin prayers become devil worship, their blessings for good health are evidence of evil deeds.
As can happen with people who have little or no political power or protection, the Daughters of the Witching Hill and a few of their men eventually become enmeshed in the struggle between good and evil, poverty and wealth. A small gathering of friends at the home of one of the Daughters is presented in a court trial as an act of treason against the King, resulting in several guilty verdicts and a punishment of death.
But before the sad and inevitable ending, we are introduced to several strong women who live, love, laugh, cry and pray. The author’s descriptions of the characters’ acute awareness of Mother Nature and her many gifts invite the reader to use all five senses to understand. The author writes about Mother Nature the way Cameron directed the new world of Pandora – you believe you are there and everything is real.
I found myself dawdling over this book as I neared the end. I enjoyed meeting these women; knowing how their story would end, I was in no hurry to say goodbye.
Mary M. (Lexingtin, KY)
Fascinating Historical Novel
I found this book to be interesting and well written. I knew nothing about the historical events it was based on. I sometimes have trouble relating to characters in historical novels, but from the first few pages I felt I knew Demdike. I cared about her and I cared what happened to her and her friends and family. It was easy to get lost in the time period and to feel like you knew the people and their world. I finished the book wanting to know more about the witch trials and the time period they took place in. I think a good book gets you interested in the subject beyond the book and this book did that for me. I will be reading more about the witch trials. I also feel I have discovered a new author since I have not read anything else by Mary Sharrat. I will be reading other books by her in the future.
Barbara B. (Alta Loma, CA)
For History Lovers
Historical fiction is one of my favorite genres and reading DAUGHTERS OF THE WITCHING HILL did not disappoint. Mary Sharratt's novel takes place in the 17th Century & tells the story of seven women & two men who were tried as witches. It is based on real people & factual events,told by two of the condemned, who have very strong voices.
The characters came alive for me and the use of the language put me in the middle of all that was enfolding.
I would suggest this book for book clubs, as the discussions can take different paths.
Jeanne M. (Vancouver, WA)
Good and Evil
"Daughters of the Witching Hill" is a historical novel that brings life to the seven women and two men who are accused of witchcraft. The stories are brought to life by Mother Demdike (Bess Southerns) and her granddaughter, Alizon. Mother Demdike sets the stage for understanding the world of Catholic folk magic in the time of the Reformation. Alizon continues the narration, giving life to each of the men and women who grapple with the world they are drawn into by the daily life, poverty, illness and imposed religion of the Reformation.
Each character is thoughtfully developed, exploring their fears and everyday trials. We come to admire and have compassion for the lives of these men and women and the decisions they make to help those who need it and hinder those who are bent on ill-will.
Fittingly, Mother Demdike add the coda to the resolution of the witch trials that ensue, Ann reminds the world that they will endure and remain a part of the lore of this time in history.
Stephanie W. (Hudson, OH)
Exciting and informative
Daughters of the Witching Hill is a fascinating look at an actual witch trial in England. Real facts from trial transcripts and histories are mixed with imagined thoughts and conversations of the main characters. Even the spirits that visit the "witches" seem realistic and believable. I would recommend it for book clubs as there is much to discuss. The author draws the reader in right from the beginning and keeps your interest until the unavoidable and tragic ending.
Barb W. (Mechanicsburg, PA)
Couldn't put it down
Loved this book, had a hard time putting it down. Having just read another book that lightly touched upon the Pendle witches, I was especially intrigued by this one, and it did not disappoint. I was transported back to the 1600s and easily got caught up in the story. I will definitely be recommending this to my friends, co-workers and our library's patrons who ask for "a good read"!