Monday, December 12, 2011

Salem Witch Books

There are two periods in history that absolutely fascinate me: The Holocaust, and the Salem Witch Trials. I am drawn to fictional books about them and am amazed every time I read a new spin on the topics. I've already shared a list of some of my favorite Holocaust novels. Now here are some of my thoughts on books set during the Salem witch period.

The Crucible by Arthur Miller -
Not surprisingly, I love this play. It is the basis for everything I think of when I think of the Salem witch trials. Even when I visited Salem, Massachusetts and went to a dramatic short play of events there, an excerpt of The Crucible was what they chose to perform.

Witch Child by Celia Rees
This young adult novel was beautifully written and was hard to put down. Mary, the "granddaughter" of a woman accused and tortured for being a witch, travels to Puritan England to escape being killed next. But the locals there don't trust her. If they had any idea that Mary does possess magical skills, she would surely be killed. But we, as readers, are privy to the fact that Mary is a witch and she tells us her tale through diary entries. (I believe there's a sequel to this novel. I must investigate!)

Time of the Witches by Anna Myers
This middle grade novel introduces two new characters into families that anyone who follows the real events in Salem already knows. Drucilla and Gabe are orphans sent to live with Salem families: the Putnams. As the hysteria begins and Ann Putnam makes her accusations, Drucilla feels herself pulled into the hysteria and makes an accusation, too. 

This book explores the psychological phenomena that was likely the cause of the the witch hunts in Salem. Unless, of course, you think the hysteria was actually caused by witchcraft...

The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe
I bought this book after I met the author at Books by the Banks in 2010. During Katherine Howe's research, she learned that she was related to real-life accused witches Elizabeth Howe and Elizabeth Procter. That alone made me want to read the book, which I later decided was based largely on Howe's own research. The main character, Connie, is a graduate student at Harvard looking for new primary historical resources and discovers the physick book, or spell book, of a woman she would later learn she was related to. The book was good, but didn't have the drama and threat that I like to associate with Salem witch books.

Tituba of Salem Village by Ann Petry.
This book was published in 1964 and it shows. While it follows the same characters that we know from history, it did not hold my interest at all and I didn't make it past the first 30 pages. Don't waste your time when there are better witch books to read.

My top picks:  The Crucible and Witch Child

1 comment:

  1. I adore The Crucible! Thanks for the heads-up on the other books.