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The Last Witchfinder: na Hardcover – 6 Apr 2006


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 496 pages
  • Publisher: W&N; First Edition edition (6 April 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0297852582
  • ISBN-13: 978-0297852582
  • Product Dimensions: 16.2 x 4.3 x 24.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 647,775 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

an absolute delight...Seldom does one come across a story that works on so many levels. Not only does it satisfy by being a highly entertaining yarn detailing the picaresque, pillar-to-post adventures of its admirable and highly likeable protagonist, Jennet Stearne, it stands too as a sharply observed post-modernist satire that focuses upon the age-old tensions that both bind and divide us - religion and science... a hugely affable work, and a great pleasure to read. (John Berlyne SFREVU)

the sheer exuberance of the plot and the determination of the protagonist to reach her goal carries the reader along. A thoroughly entertaining novel. (WATERSTONE'S BOOKS QUARTERLY)

..the genius of this book...is that is perfectly captures the prismatic situations of science and theology in the 18th century...Part of the delight of this novel is the richness of the language, the carefully balanced coyness and coquetry of 18th century literarture, and the way in which the Principia Mathematica writes all the world in Newtonian geometry. (Farah Mendlesohn STRANGE HORIZONS)

The Last Witchfinder is cleverly written, with the detail of history providing a rich tapestry into which the fiction is woven, bringing events and chartacters both real and imagined to vivid life...Morrow has written a timely intervention into the dangersof Fundamentalism for the zeitgeist. (Brigid Cherry DREAMWATCH (May 2006))

An intense and dramatic novel set in one of the darkest periods of our country's history. (GOOD BOOK GUIDE)

James Morrow writes in order to tell us things: to admonish us about our coming destruction of the world, or about the battle between reason and superstition...what he is, deep down, is a satirist and moralist...What makes this satirical version of the struggle against fundamentalism so powerful is Morrow's scenes of natural beauty or urban squalor. These have the scent of real wild flowers, the squish of real mud and dung underfoot. (Roz Kaveney INDEPENDENT (11.5.06))

Romp is too small a word for this novel, although the fin and excitement James Morrow delivers inevitably brings it to mind. (Alastair Mabbott THE HERALD (13.5.06))

a dazzling novel about the clash between superstition and science...This is an extravagant, expansive, erudite, energetic feast of information and adventure...I felt bound to read on as if tied to a stake myself. (Jessica Mann SUNDAY TELEGRAPH (14.5.06))

[a] tremendous historical novel...In a book that will appeal to fans of Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, James Morrow captures the imagination and excitement of a world long gone. (NEWMARKET JOURNAL and SUFFOLK FREE PRESS)

Inventive, original and downright entertaining with some fantastic fantasy twists, The Last Witchfinder is a book that really does take genre writing in a completely new and highly entertaining direction. (James Whittington THE DARK SIDE)

The Last Witchfinder is a magnificent combination of high entertainment and intellectually demanding story telling. The life and travails of Jennet prove to be compelling; the tale fair gallops along and is packed with incident as well as engaging and intriguing characters. It is a tremendously satisfying read which offers much to be considered long after the book is finished. (Dave M Roberts VECTOR MAGAZINE)

Book Description

A great historical novel following the picaresque adventures of Jennet, daughter of the last Witchfinder of Mercia and East Anglia. Will appeal to fans of Philip Pullman, Restoration, and Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell

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Customer Reviews

3.5 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By W. J. H. Rouse on 13 Jun. 2007
Format: Paperback
This book is a very enjoyable read, though not always an easy one. Morrow has taken the battle between Renaissance and Enlightenment, between superstition and reason and located it in a time when witchfinders were stll scouring the English countryside and when unspeakble things were being done to unfortunate women in Salem, Massachusetts. If this sounds a touch dry then don't worry...it isn't. This is a picaresque novel full of larger than life characters, the best of whom are the doomed Isobel Mowbray, the exuberant Barnaby Cavendish and the fantastic heroine Jennet Stearne.

Jennet's mission is to see the overturning of the Witchcraft Statute by Parliament and it is this ultimate aim that unites the various episodes that make up the story. Some of these episodes are fantastically realised, especially the final trial scene which is genuinely tense. However, it has to be said that Jennet's time among the Indians is a trifle dull and her shipwreck on the Caribbean Island isn't nearly as exciting as it sounds. This is the problem with the book. Morrow has written a very ambitious novel and, although some things work brilliantly others just don't. The idea of casting the narrator of the novel as a book, Newton's Principia Mathematica, is original but ultimately doesn't work. Although it succeeds in creating a viewpoint located outside the time frame of the story, it becomes a distraction. Morrow has obviously done a lot of research into the intellectual and scientific theories of the period and, while at times these are stimulating and colourful, at other times they detract from the storytelling.

To sum up this is an entertaining and enjoyable read and it is worth sticking with. An ambitious, exciting, frustrating and flawed novel.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By neverendings on 22 Jun. 2012
Format: Paperback
In early 18th century England, a time when scientific and philosophical discoveries are beginning to change the way the world thinks, 11 year old Jennet Stearne is being raised - daughter of Walter Stearne, Witchfinder-General, and educated by her aunt Isabel. Jennet is an intelligent girl, but doesn't quite grasp the discrepancy between her father's profession and her aunt's lessons in philosophy and physics, until the day Walter's job leads him to his own sister-in-law who suddenly stands accused of witchcraft, for her scientific studies. Using all the techniques which have always stood him in good stead - the devil's mark blemishes, the rejection of the water when thrown into the river - then trial by jury, Walter finds he has greater allegiance to his principles as witchfinder than to the woman who has helped him raise his own children, and Isabel is burned at the stake.

The story follows the rest of Jennet's unexpectedly 'colourful' life, through Salem witch trials, kidnap by Indians, and romance with Benjamin Franklin. She is horrified by her father's actions, but despite dedicating her life to creating what she believes to be an irrefutable argument against demons and witchcraft, she decides that the only way she can prove her case once and for all is to stand trial accused of witchcraft herself. It's then a question of whether she will suffer the same fate as her aunt Isabel, or if logic, reason and science can save the day...

Very funny in places, and interesting, too; but the second half dragged a bit and I did get a little fed up of the constant adventuring. I think this would have been a much better story with some brutal editing throughout, but it's a good entertainment, nonetheless.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Enielle on 6 Oct. 2013
Format: Paperback
This book is less about witch finding and more about science and maths. I enjoyed the parts which included historical facts about witch hunting in both England and the New World, but not so much the tedious extracts of Newtonian mathematics which especially populate the earlier part of the book. I nearly gave up reading after the first few chapters which are bogged down with extended explanations of experiments and maths problems conducted by the main character and her aunt, which don't really add anything to the story apart from the author apparently showing off that he understands them. Luckily these appear less frequently after the opening segment. I also didn't like how the narrator of the story was a sentient book- it just seemed a bit silly, really, and annoying when it suddenly broke up the narrative for some self-indulgent ramble from the book about other books it was friends with. I found myself often skipping these sections when they came along, and the reading experience improved for it.

Having said all of the above, I did enjoy reading the story and wanted to find out what happened in the end. It also made me interested to look up the facts behind the witch trials and provoked some thought about the mentality of people during that period of history. I would recommend reading this, however be prepared to skim through the dense explanations of maths experiments and the outside narrative, as these add little to the story.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Glorybe on 30 Sept. 2010
Format: Paperback
I found this book fascinating and a little strange at the same time! The writing style gets a bit of getting used to but once you get into the book its great! Set in England in the 17 century.
Jennet Stearne is an intelligent precocious young woman her, aunt Isobel is a radical thinking woman and excellent teacher who takes on Jennet's education whilst her father and brother travel round the country hunting down witches and bringing them to justice, with some of the extraordinary methods used in the times. Things go well until the witchfinders find Isobels scientific experiments and style of teaching too much like "Witchcraft" to understand! Isobel is tried and executed as a witch and Jennet determines to overturn the Parliamentry witchcraft act and bring about the end to the barbaric crimes carried out by the Witchfinders in the name of the lord! Jennets father and brother are exhiled to the Americas for overstepping his authority, and Jennet has to go too as she is only 12, and her adventures begin. I really do not want to tell you the whole plot but it is a rollercoaster of a ride.
Anyone interested in Witchcraft trials and 17th century life would find this a really good read.
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