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The Lost Book of Salem Kindle Edition
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When I started this book I was a little disappointed at the quality of the writing, which is at times rather pedestrian and obvious. However, the story is extremely absorbing and more than made up for any of my minor disappointments, and I really enjoyed reading it.
Although the identity of the villain of the piece is quite clear from early on in the story, I still found myself racing to the end of the book to find out what happened and whether Connie would be able to break a curse that exists in her family. I also particularly enjoyed the odd chapter that was set in 1692 and sometimes later, about Deliverance and her ancesters, which were interspersed within Connie's own story.
An interesting and enjoyable read, and one which I would definitely recommend.
Doctoral candidate in history Connie Goodwin finds herself charged with spending a summer in Marblehead, Massachusetts, readying her grandmother's house for sale. The old, abandoned place is a mess, but the discovery of a mysterious key with an unfamiliar name stashed inside it in an old Bible sets Connie on a path of discovery and potential scholarship. Her advisor and mentor back at Harvard is exceedingly excited about the prospect of what she might find, but the road to discovery increasingly becomes more personal to Connie as she proceeds with her search. Plenty of evidence of ties to the unknown Deliverance Dane goes unnoticed by Connie, and the reader learns Deliverance's story long before the protagonist does - both of which tend to undermine the reader's fascination with Connie's search for truth.
The story just seems to lack a strong sense of passion or intensity underneath the surface, and it does tend to wander at times away from its foundation. I don't have a problem with the budding romance that develops in these pages, but some may feel that it sometimes wanders somewhat astray from the book's central subject matter. What I expected to be one of the novel's most significant chapters wasn't even included, as we're only informed of a crucial event after the fact. Then there is the prime conflict in the story, which I felt required much more explanation regarding its origins.
One relative strength of the novel is the author's attempt to portray life in colonial Salem as it really was, which is a clear byproduct of the author's dedication to history. Some of the details may get a tad tedious to some readers, but I actually felt that Deliverance Dane was a more complete and real character than Connie turned out to be, and that's a bit of a problem because Connie is the main character. Still, it's an interesting read and an impressive debut novel, and it does offer a refreshingly different viewpoint on the lives of some of the "cunning" women caught up in the madness of the Salem Witch Trials.
I wish I could say I had enjoyed this book, but I didn't. I had trouble with Katherine Howe's writing style, which was overly descriptive and made the story drag in places. I also found the plot too predictable - it was interesting enough to keep me turning the pages, but there were no real surprises.
As the main character, I found Connie very irritating. Considering she was a PhD student and supposedly an expert in colonial American history she was very slow to pick up on clues that were obvious even to me. She didn't appear to have much knowledge of the period she was studying either - I'd have thought she would have known that 'receipt' used to mean 'recipe', for example, and she seemed to be mystified by the word 'bottel' before it finally dawned on her that it was just the phonetic spelling for 'bottle'. Deliverance Dane was a more interesting character and I would have preferred to have spent longer in the 17th century, rather than just the brief interludes that we were given.
There were still a lot of things to like about this book, though. The historical sections were atmospheric and appeared to have been well-researched. And for anyone with an interest in the Salem witches, the book goes into a lot of detail about the trials and the events that lead up to them. So, although I was disappointed by it, I'm sure other people would enjoy it more than I did.
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