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Daughters of the Witching Hill

A Novel

by Mary Sharratt

Daughters of the Witching Hill
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  • First Published:
    Apr 2010, 352 pages
    Jan 2011, 352 pages

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There are currently 19 reader reviews for Daughters of the Witching Hill
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Beverly J. (Huntersville, NC) (04/18/10)

Ignorance Is Not Bliss
I was pulled into the story from the beginning despite knowing what the ending. The joy in this book is the telling of the story and the language describing the period. I very much enjoy a good historical fiction and once again Mary Sharratt does not disappoint the reader in providing a well-researched book.

While reading the story of the three generations of “healing” women that lived in the late 16th/early 17th century, I was taken with the living the conditions of the time, especially for those less fortunate Just imagine having to walk many miles to Sunday church service and then to have to stand throughout the entire service because you are poor. As a reader, I learned about the use of religion as a means of power control over the people and any diversion of thought and act was not tolerated. And at times, it reminded me of the current times, when we are becoming less tolerant of others who are not exactly like us.

Bess Southerns, aka Mother Demdike, was using the only skill she had to provide for her family, in a time of limited resources. That the use of herbs and plants could be considered witchcraft when these were the only medical resources available at the time, gave me a better understanding on why we “lost” the understanding of plants in keeping us healthy.

I encourage all to read this enchanting story as it will have a lasting effect on you on how the world has changed and then really not changed over the last several hundred years.
Eileen (04/13/10)

Daughters of the Witching Hill
Over the years I have had an interest in the persecution of perceived witches, based on their healing abilities, physical and mental illnesses, or their religious beliefs. This historical fiction was very enlightening. The main characters were well defined, some of the lesser ones never seemed to develop much for me. The narrative at the end of the book left me very uncomfortable, even though I knew this was probably true. An educational read, but not an enjoyable one.
Natalya M. (Medical Lake, WA) (04/06/10)

A cunning novel of witchcraft
This book is a great historical fiction novel that puts together magic, religious persecution, and witch hunts. Bess Southerns a poor widow starts using her gifts to help those in her village. She teaches her cunning craft to her granddaughter and best friend. One goes to the dark side with the craft and a witch hunt begins. Before this novel I have only really heard about the Salem Witch Trials so this was a nice change. It was written beautifully in the first person. A lot of research went into this novel.
Chris (Wauwatosa, WI) (04/02/10)

Daughters of the Witching Hill
I found this to be a very captivating book of historical fiction. It was difficult to put down right from the beginning as the author drew me into the life of Bess Southerns and her family. It's fascinating to think of the times of the witch trials and read an account, even a fictional one, of how a community can get caught up in blame and persecution of an individual and then a family when something is wrong or unexplained. Certainly not a novel concept throughout history. I recommend this book without hesitation!
Colleen T. (Lakewood, CO) (03/25/10)

Daughters of the Witching Hill
An amazing story. The author's excellent writing style puts you in the story so you feel as though you are actually there. I recommend this book highly.
Jodie A. (CORPUS CHRISTI, TX) (03/23/10)

Daughters of the Witching Hill
Although parts of this book moved a little slowly I enjoyed reading this book. The subject matter was very interesting and the characters were unique. It had a mystical quality to it and I felt like I was being drawn into a unique place and time in history. The last quarter of the book really picked up the pace. I think a book club could have some good discussions about the days of people being accused of witchcraft.
Linda S. (Oceanside, NY) (03/22/10)

Daughters of the Witching Hill is a fictionalized account of the so called “Witches of Pendle Forest”, who were found guilty of witchcraft in England in the early 1600’s. The main focus of the story is Elizabeth Southerns, a cunning woman, who had been helping the people of the area for some 50 years by using herbs and charms to cure ills in exchange for food for her family. Both her daughter and granddaughter have the same talent for curing, but choose not to pursue their talent, and the family’s eventual downfall forms the crux of this story.

I usually enjoy stories of this type, but I found that at times this book went on and on describing walks to and from various homes of the townspeople. The bleakness of the lives these people led was often hard to read about, that isn’t a criticism of the writing, it’s just a statement that the book was often depressing. I also had a hard time connecting with the characters, with the exception of Alizon Device, the granddaughter; to me she was the most fully realized character in the book. It was hard to follow time frames, years seemed to go by with the turn of a page. After all the time spent setting up the story, the eventual imprisonment and trial seemed very rushed. Although it’s clear that a lot of research went into this I never ‘felt’ the story.
Patricia S. (Chicago, IL) (03/22/10)

Daughters of the Witching Hill
When I first received this book, I realized that it wasn't the sort I'd usually pick up. No grand courts, no fancy gowns, no famous historical personages. Just poor, old women, poorer farms and some hints of the events of the times. Then I started reading it and Mother Demdyke hooked me. An old peasant woman, who becomes a healer late in her life, she had such a personality that I had to learn everything I could about her. Through her reminiscences, we learn of the closing of the abbeys, the Spanish Armada and the accession of King James I of England. She also remembers the church festivals and holidays (more for the frolicking and feasting than the services!) and some of the folk wisdom of the time. Her experiences with her familiar, Tibb, gives a view of early 17th century witchcraft that history books leave out--the healer who chants old Latin prayers as she "charms" the people and animals she cures. Another old woman, once Demdyke's best friend, is the local evil witch, cursing the man who raped her daughter. this deed comes back to haunt the community in the end, though.

Mother Demdyke narrates the first half of the book and her granddaughter narrates the second. I liked Mother Demdyke better as a narrator, she had the personal experiences to relate while her granddaughter only knows what her grandmother told her. In the second half, Mother Demdyke is merely an old, blind woman, not the powerful matriarch of the first half. Her granddaughter, while beautiful, is not nearly as smart, which brings the whole family to disaster, charged as witches and taken to the nearest town for trial and execution. I felt the second half of the book lacked the depth of the first half, and the ending was both rushed and obvious. However, the setting was wonderfully described and the characters extremely memorable.
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