From a writer who has been lauded as "an original -- stylistically ingenious, savagely funny, always unpredictable" (Philadelphia Inquirer) and "unerring" (San Diego Union-Tribune), who has been compared to Mark Twain, Kurt Vonnegut, and John Updike, a writer whose pen has given us a devastating lampoon of the nuclear-arms race and an audacious answer to the outrageous question "What if God had a daughter?" -- from this writer, the critically acclaimed James Morrow, comes a novel of history, adventure, science, sex, satire, absurdity, and philosophy.
Jennet Stearne's father hangs witches for a living in Restoration England. But when this precocious child witnesses the horrifying death of her beloved Aunt Isobel, unjustly executed as a sorceress, she makes it her life's mission to bring down the Parliamentary Witchcraft Act. A self-educated "natural philosopher," Jennet is inspired in her quest by a single sentence in a cryptic letter from Isaac Newton: It so happens that in the Investigations leading first to my Conjectures concerning Light and later to my System of the World, I fell upon a pretty Proof that Wicked Spirits enjoy no essential Existence. Armed with nothing but the power of reason and her memory of Isobel's love, Jennet cannot rest until she has put the last witchfinder out of business.
Abrim with picaresque adventures -- escapades that carry Jennet from King William's Britain to the fledgling American Colonies to an uncharted Caribbean island -- our heroine's search for justice entangles her variously in the machinations of the Salem Witch Court, the customs of her Algonquin Indian captors, the designs of a West Indies pirate band, and the bedsheets of her brilliant lover, the young Ben Franklin. Finally, in a reckless and courageous ploy, Jennet arranges to go on trial herself for sorcery, the only way she can defeat the witchfinders now and forever. Rich in detail, rollicking in style, and endlessly engaging, The Last Witchfinder is a tour de force of historical fiction.
This intensely cerebral extravaganza doesn't really work... Morrow's prose, cobwebbed with archaisms, is no help.
Starred Review. This tour-de-force of early America bears a buoyant humor to lighten its macabre load.
Though similar to John Barth's The Sot-Weed Factor in many respects, Witchfinder is warmer and more human. Strongly recommended.
Neal Stephenson, author of The Baroque Cycle
A grand yarn about the clash of reason and superstition, set in a fascinating time.
Peter Straub, author of Ghost Story and Shadowland
Combining extravagant quantities of both warmth and brilliance, James Morrow's The Last Witchfinder should speak directly to everyone who loves the work of Neal Stephenson, John Barth, or Thomas Pynchon. But its wild humor, knock 'em dead pace, shining intelligence, and surpassing tenderness toward its characters ought to entice readers of every kind into its glorious big tent. With this book, James Morrow has broken through to a new and breathtaking mastery.
John Crowley, author of Lord Byron's Novel
multifarious, and hilarious. The Last Witchfinder has the
pitiless clarity of the age it pictures, leavened by Morrows smiling,
humane historical imagination: like being tied to the stake and
mercifully released. It will win James Morrow a wide readership, and
James Morrow describes himself as
a 'scientific humanist'. His earlier
works tend to question religious
viewpoints, from organized religions all
the way through to atheism. For example,
in the first volume of his Godhead
Trilogy, written in the 1990s, the
2-mile long corpse of God is discovered
floating in the ocean and the Vatican
dispatches a supertanker to tow the
corpse to a tomb in the Arctic,
meanwhile a group of atheist extremists
plan on destroying the body, as it
proves they were wrong. In the second
volume, God's body is now part of a
religious theme park and God is put on
trial, in a parody of C.S. Lewis's,
God in the Dock.
The Last Witchfinderis
his first foray into (relatively)
straightforward historical fiction,
although it does have one key
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