- Paperback: 333 pages
- Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company; Reprint edition (9 Nov. 2012)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0547422296
- ISBN-13: 978-0547422299
- Product Dimensions: 13.5 x 2.3 x 20.3 cm
- Average Customer Review: 51 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 279,495 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Daughters of the Witching Hill Paperback – 9 Nov 2012
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About the Author
MARY SHARRATT is the author of five critically acclaimed novels, including the Nautilus award-winning Illuminations: A Novel of Hildegard von Bingen. She is an American who has lived in Germany and England for more than two decades.
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In one Chapter, one of the Wise Women's daughter's comes across an unfriendly Pedlar who she wants to buy pins from because her skirt is falling apart, because of the girls appearance the pedlar admonishes her and she gets a bit annoyed, she gives him a verbal mouthful in view of the fact he has called her a thief and a beggar and a whore and unfortunately he suffers a stroke and becomes paralysed down one side. She ends up being brought in by the law and questioned by a oily smooth talker who offers her wine and sweetmeat, which loosens her tonque and end up incriminating other people which was rather twisted by this questioner. Being a Cunning woman was a skill but you were on a knife's edge between being seen as a brilliant savior or someone who deliberately put a hex on someone with intent to kill if the ill person died.
There are also spirit guides who apparently perform the magical parts of the witchery and I have to admit to finding this aspect a bit far fetched.
Unfortunately their activities were particularly unpopular during the time of King James I. He outlawed Catholicism and had a vendetta against all forms of witchcraft, both good and evil.
The two main characters were Bess Southers, known as Mother Demdike, and her granddaughter Alizon Device, and the book is narrated by both. Their lives were hard, little more than subsistence, and they were paid for their services in food and clothing. There was also a lot of emphasis on cursing and using witchcraft for evil doing, which gave the 'white witches' a bad name.
I enjoyed the book, though it dragged a little at times. The imprisonment, trial and ultimate hanging of the Pendle witches was interesting, though somehow lacking in tension. For me the best aspect of the book was the description of life in Pendle Forest at that time, particularly the interactions between the rich and poor, and the way that witchcraft was intimately woven into the beliefs of both.
Other witch related books I have read:
The Heretic's Daughter by Kathleen Kent (4 stars)
The Oracle Glass by Judith Merkle Riley (3 stars)
The Lace Reader by Brunonia Barry (3.5 stars)
It steers well clear of the usual garbage that is written about this terrible chapter of history and instead gives a warm and genuine insight into what was probably closer to the truth; at the same time it still ties in the fantastical aspects of magick which only adds to its utter charm. Read it! Love it and pass it on.
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