The house has been abandoned for 20+ years, yet they find and harvest tomatoes and greens from the overgrown garden and wash them in the water from the kitchen sink. Considering New England winters, how did these annual plants survive all of these years and why did the pipes in the house not burst from the cold?
I'm most disappointed in a book that had so much promise and a talented writer. But when it degenerated from historical fiction into outright Hollywoodish magic, lights, incantations, sparks and all ... it turned into your run-of-the-mill, magic-conjuring novel. What's worse, it makes apologies of sorts for the Salem witch hunt. No, not in as many words, but by describing the use of "real" witchcraft, it does in fact validate irrational fears that led to the events of 1692. How much better this book could have been if it had explained how innocent acts were misinterpreted as magic in the proper historical context. A big thumbs down.
My problems with this book stem from my childhood- my parents kept finding abandoned houses to rent (no clue why, they were melodramatic that way). Rarely we had electricity, heat, or running water. It is vaguely possible that the tomatoes, etc. might reseed. Very vaguely. But the rosemary hedge? Not even faintly possible in New England unless it is right against a warm house wall, facing South in a windbreak. But where did the well get the electricity to pump the water into the house? Why was there water in the pipes? Why was the upholstered furniture perfectly dandy after a quick swipe with a gentle wool cleaner? And for crying out loud, what was the steaming pasta cooked over, as there was no gas stove or gas, for that matter? Then there's the fire hazards of the oil lamp (no cleaning, just poof after 20 years perfectly fine) & the unrepaired or upgraded fireplace. Can you say raccoons???? Flatlanders should never be allowed to write pretending to know how to live in a premodern setting. Blech.
I am very surprised that no one has taken issue (unless I didn't notice) with Katherine Howe's abyssmal portrayal of librarians and archivists. I haven't even finished this book, and am now having trouble doing so. Every librarian or archivist in this book, and there are several, is depicted as surly, lazy, and unpleasant. I feel like this author has true personal vendetta going against librarians. When we finally meet a librarian who deigns to SMILE, she is doing needlepoint at her desk and wearing a Peter Pan collar and pleated skirt. Another archives person is "a tiny, withered woman in a tight bun and spectacles..." whose "mouth was pressed into a narrow, bitter line." Yet another description reads, "the research librarian had made no attempt to conceal his irritation when she asked for the book to be paged." I am a librarian, and have been for thirty years and these depictions are extremely unreasonable. Further, I have been a librarian in Boston and will surely share these depictions with those I'm still in contact with there. A graduate student has, I am certain, been provided with help on numerous occasions from librarians without Peter Pan collars. Boy, I don't remember ever, ever being so irate at stereotypes portrayed in a book as I am at this one. Hope the BU librarians are willing able to help you out...
I think we are all vexed by our own experiences being rubbed the wrong way. I figured she was trying to make us feel New-England-y with the broad stereotypes of librarians, propped open doors, & the wandering Bahstan ahccent, ma deah. If an author wants to interject Magick into an otherwise passable whodunit thriller type, I leave that to the author's choice- this is her sandbox & her play rules, as it were. But it is an awkward first novel desperately in need of a good editor & fact checker. And someone to remind the author that stereotypes are irritating as all get out.
Ms/Mr Friedlander: Bless you. Finally someone who sees this book for what it is, a "beach book" that distorts the truth and may lead ignorant people to believe that the Salem Witches were in fact witches who deserved to be hung. Deliverance Dane was my great times whatever aunt on three lines. She was a real person who was accused of witchcraft, thrown in jail and then released on bond. She was never indicted or hung. Katherine Howe has taken Elizabeth Howe's actions and attributed them to another person, my innocent ancestress. There is a large body of academic research on what they call "cunning women" (and men). These were people who knew the use of herbs, etc. to heal people and animals. These people existed. But they didn't summon the Devil or wave magic wands around.
Vicky: All I can say is that the book is filled with slanderous distortions of facts. I wonder if the author is in fact pursuing any kind of academic degree. I did work for a while at the Naval Historical Foundation as a webmistress for a while and can only say that the librarians and archivists there went out of their way to help people.
Aside from all the botanical anomalies mentioned above, the fact checker would probably throw up if he/she went to the archives of the U of Va where the actual trial transcripts are kept. I like good historical fiction but it should stick to the facts, where known, and fill in the gaps with fiction. This book isn't historical fiction, it's just fiction, so no fact checkers are needed.
Well, I have been slogging through the reviews of this book and it's very depressing to see how many of the readers just assume that the book is faithful to historical fact. Perhaps because the author says she is getting a PhD in colonial studies from BU.
There are people coming away from this book who think the Salem witches were in fact witches, one reviewer even said Deliverance Dane deserved to be hung. Even more people assume the author's descended from E. Howe and E. Proctor while the postcript belies this fact.
This book would have been okay if there had been a huge disclaimer in the beginning, rather than the usual disclaimer that the book is a work of fiction and no actual persons are portrayed in the book. The disclaimer should have read as follows: 1) I, Katherine Howe, picked Deliverance Dane as the protagonist for my book out of the blue because her name was cool. She was a real person who was swept up in the hysteria, was jailed and bailed out but was never tried. There is only one court record relating to her involvement with the Salem Witch Trials-her husband's bail request to get her out of jail. There isn't even an arrest warrant, let alone an indictment or a conviction. 2) Most of the actions attributed to DD in the book were in fact actions or accusations of actions of Elizabeth Howe. The alleged poisoning of the Perley child was made against Elizabeth Howe. Do a google search of "salem witch trials" and find the University of VA Salem Witchcraft Archives. Then, go to Court Records. You can search all the court records by name. Look up Elizabeth Howe and you will see that the Perley claim was made against her, not DD. 3) I, Katherine Howe, am somehow "connected" to Elizabeth Howe, but despite the voluminous birth and marriage records available at that time and place, am unable to establish any sort of descent from her or clarify the "connection" in terms that a geneologist would understand. Also, despite the existence of such voluminous geneological records, I rely on "family geneological research" and oral family history-both notoriously inaccurate- to establish these "connections". However, I am also "more connected" somehow to Elizabeth Proctor, who wasn't hung. I also can't verify any descent from E. Proctor.
My problem isn't with the historical accuracy or lack. My problem is the ease with which a skinny flatlander could move into an otherwise abandoned house that somehow is barely dirty & is just fine after a quick mop. It's the glib lack of practicality that annoys the daylights out of me.
Well, another fact is that the city of Marblehead wouldn't have allowed the house to just sit there with unpaid taxes for 30 years. They would have done a tax sale years ago. Also, cities will tear down abandoned houses like this because they are unsafe. The whole thing is just ridiculous. If I hadn't gotten the book out of the library and paid nothing for it, I would have returned it immediately. Nancy