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The Witch's Trinity: A Novel Paperback – October 7, 2008

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Agrandmother's family turns against her in Mailman's uneven debut historical about witch trials in 16th-century Germany. The people of Tierkinddorf, on the brink of starvation following years of bad weather and poor crops, suspect a witch has cast a spell on them. Under the guidance of a visiting friar, the townspeople burn at the stake a local healer. When their luck does not improve, attention turns to the healer's longtime friend, Güde Müller, the novel's narrator and a widow who lives with her son, Jost; her daughter-in-law, Irmeltrud; and their two children. Güde has been recently tormented with visions of witches and of the devil disguised as her late husband, and is uncertain whether the apparitions are real. When Jost and the other village men strike out on a hunting expedition, Irmeltrud begins, in her husband's absence, a campaign to finger Güde as a witch. Mailman creates an intense atmosphere of hunger, fear and claustrophobic paranoia, though the secondary cast is flat and Güde's mental state doesn't always allow for lucid narration. Fans of supernatural fiction will want to give this a look. (Sept.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

No one escapes suspicion when a famine afflicts a medieval German village. Eager to identify a scapegoat, the starving residents of Tierkindorf fall under the spell of an itinerant friar claiming to be able to extract confessions of witchcraft from transgressors. When elderly Gude Muller begins to experience blackouts and confusing visions, her daughter-in-law Irmeltrude seizes the opportunity to rid herself of the burden of her husband's mother. In an ironic twist, the villagers turn not only on Gude but on Irmeltrude as well. In searingly simple prose, Mailman probes the human psyche, peeling back the layers of the basest human instincts to expose the dangerous frailties of the human soul. Flanagan, Margaret --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Broadway Books; Reprint edition (October 7, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 030735153X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307351531
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (39 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,079,710 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

I'm a historical fiction writer who is absolutely obsessed with the past. Many time periods draw me in: I'm most compelled by the 1800s in America, but also love medieval Europe, ancient Egypt, Revolution-era France...on and on.

I wanted to be an author since I was in fourth grade, and was thrilled to see it come to fruition when I was still cognizant enough to enjoy it. ;)

As of this writing, I have two novels out. The Witch's Trinity is about a medieval German woman accused of witchcraft by her own daughter-in-law, and was published by Crown/Random House in 2007. Woman of Ill Fame is about a Gold Rush prostitute who solves murders, published by Heyday Books in 2007.

I live in the gold country area of Northern California and enjoy the historic sites around me whenever I get a chance. www.erikamailman.com

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

27 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Kiki VINE VOICE on October 22, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I have always had an interest in the "supernatural" and our perceptions of it, and have read a few non-fiction books about the witch hunts that have gone on both in the Colonies and in Europe. This book takes place at a time of great unheaval in Germany, when first plague and then famine has ravished many small villages in 1507. Güde is an older woman living with her son's family in one such villge.

The children are skinny and the parents are all starving, giving what they can to their children, including Güde and her son and daughter in law, Jost and Irmeltrud sacrifice for their children. All the villagers are hungry and a suspicious eye is cast when a Friar and his notary come to visit the village looking for witches. Güde's friend Künne is the first victim. Soon, Güde herself is taken, accused by her own daughter in law and Rome's representive Friar Fuch's in his scary black robes.

The frightening tale is told from Güde's point of view; she is an elderly woman, who has lived an exceedingly long life for her times, and her own confusion of time and place plays into the accusations against her. It is easy to see how simple it would be to accuse the older people of the village--they make good scapegoats and are often senile.

Not a perfect book, it is well written and has some very beautifully told passages evoking wonderful images, both dark and lovely. Many details play into the crafting of this cautionary tale. I thought of Arthur Miller's play, The Crucible quite often. Güde's character is so well fleshed out, and we get to understand her and know her so well, the other players seem a bit flat at times. An excellent book.
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26 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Kemble Scott on October 5, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Erika Mailman's novel about witch burnings in 1507 Germany is so compelling you'll feel like you can smell the smoke from the pyre. It's also a vivid reminder of what happens when religious leaders twist the tenets of their faiths for their own evil agendas. This is historical fiction that turns out to be remarkably timely. ---Kemble Scott, Editor, SoMa Literary Review
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24 of 24 people found the following review helpful By M. Moran on November 7, 2007
Format: Hardcover
If you are a fan of Geraldine Brooks' Year of Wonders, my feeling is that you'll also be a fan of Mailman's truly engrossing novel THE WITCH'S TRINITY, given the similar themes of alienation, fear and mortality.

Set in the early 16th century, the novel delves into the darker side of the human spirit, where neighbors turn on each another and family members accuse one another of witchcraft for their own purposes. While the accusations of witchcraft are rooted in famine, mass hysteria and personal vengeance cause the German village of Tierkenddorf to become a frightening place to live, especially for the old and unprotected.

Pick this book up. You'll be really glad you did!
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25 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Linda C. McCabe on October 9, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Human nature can be strange. The mentality of a mob for example, shows how brutal people can become when surrounded by others who are filled with passionate anger.

Erika Mailman shows us through the eyes of an elderly woman what it would have been like to live in the Middle Ages when witchcraft was thought to be the cause of any misfortune.

The famine described in this small village of Tierkinddorf, Germany is haunting. It made me feel strange reading the novel while having my lunch. I began to feel guilty knowing that the characters were willing to accuse others of witchcraft just to get a bite to eat.

A scapegoat was needed to place all the blame of the village's misfortune. It was thought that then, all things would revert back to days of plenty. That the famine would end.

The paranoia, the suspicion, the opportunity to point the finger of blame at someone whom you bear a grudge.

An accusation of milk spoiling was enough to damn someone to being burned to death, and you didn't even have to bring forth the spoiled milk as evidence. Your word was enough, if coupled with other such scurrilous complaints, to condemn someone to death.

Given today's sensibilities the thought of public execution is abhorrent. However, it is a gruesome part of our history that drawing and quarterings, beheadings, hangings, and burning at the stake were all done in the village square to serve as a lesson to all.

Beware or it may happen to you.

The Witch's Trinity is a potent tale whose ending surprised me.

I highly recommend it.
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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Deborah Krant on October 21, 2007
Format: Hardcover
An amazing intense read--with evocative language and a unique point of view. With the author's great storytelling ability, this gripping tale feels so real as it unfolds from the point of view of the accused. It reinforced for me how we humans must continue to guard against our worst instincts--how quickly we can lose our humanity! I also like the afterward with the brief story of Ms. Mailman's own ancester in New England who was also accused of witchcraft. This would be a great book club choice.
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27 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Luan Gaines HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on September 24, 2007
Format: Hardcover
With a stroke of her pen and a quote from the Malleus Maleficarum -the witch hunter's bible- Mailman plunges into a terrifying period of history, where superstition combines with ignorance and mass hysteria to accuse helpless women of witchcraft. Set in 1507 in the German village of Tierkenddorf, famine-starved neighbors cast covetous eyes on one another, their bellies empty and their minds fevered. In the home of Jost Muller, his wife, Irmeltrude resents each morsel shared with her elderly mother-in-law, Gude. Jost's son and daughter, silent, watch with widened eyes as Irmeltrude harries old Gude, one starless night pushing her from the hut, barring the door against the grandmother's return: "It was a winter to make bitter all souls."

Arriving in the village in response to a letter from the local lord, the stern-visaged Friar Johannes Fuchs, his voluminous black robes unfurling like wings against the snow, announces that he has come to purge this place of evil, the curse of witchcraft that has blighted the fields. The friar believes that just as "God punished the world with a flood... he is now punishing you with famine." Clearly witchcraft is at work. To discover and excise the source is to regain God's pleasure. All eyes fall on a solitary figure, Gude's girlhood friend, Kunne, now as bowed by age and hunger as the rest. An herbal healer, Kunne stands accused, neighbors stepping forward to complain of soured mild, hens that won't lay and barren wombs. Anguished, Gude watches as her dearest friend is stripped and burned on a pyre of wood, the village's lust for revenge temporarily sated.

But the famine does not abate.
Read more ›
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The Witch's Trinity: A Novel
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