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The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane Audio CD – 2009
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|Audio CD, 2009||
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From Publishers Weekly
Howe's novel moves back and forth between the summer of 1991 in Salem, Mass., and the 17th-century witch trial era, as college student Connie Goodwin chances upon a mysterious book written by the elusive Deliverance Dane. The characters are thin and the plot predictable, but Katherine Kellgren does her best with the material. Her voice is pleasing, her pacing and emphasis good, her diction clear but conversational. Most of her characters are distinguishable and reasonably represented, but the exaggerated British accent she adopts for the villain makes him more comical than terrifying. A Hyperion/Voice hardcover (Reviews, May 25). (June)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
*Starred Review* Harvard graduate student Connie Godwin is determination personified. She will get her doctorate and find success as a historian, whether her aura-reading mother understands her bookishness or not. But first she has to contend with her tweedy adviser’s oddly urgent demands and her late grandmother’s incredibly old, long-abandoned house in Marblehead, Massachusetts. The house is cloaked in vines and stuffed with dusty old bottles and books, but its clutter yields a tantalizing scrap of paper carrying the words “Deliverance Dane.” Connie hasn’t a clue, but the reader knows, thanks to alternating chapters set in the late-seventeenth century, that Deliverance was a good woman accused of being a witch during the infamous Salem witch hysteria. Soon Connie, admirably sensible in the face of mystifying, even terrifying occurrences, zealously searches archives and libraries for healer Deliverance’s “shadow book,” while struggling to understand her own weird, new powers. Historian Howe’s spellbinding, vividly detailed, witty, and astutely plotted debut is deeply rooted in her family connection to accused seventeenth-century witches Elizabeth Howe and Elizabeth Proctor and propelled by an illuminating view of witchcraft. In all a keen and magical historical mystery laced with romance and sly digs at society’s persistent underestimation of women. --Donna Seaman --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top customer reviews
The modern-day parts of Howe's story, set in 1991, resemble other stories that reinterpret history for a modern setting, such as Elizabeth Kostova's "The Historian" or Dan Brown's "Angels & Demons". Certain parts of the modern story fall into cliché, such as the skeptic who turns out to have powers, parts of the romantic subplot, and the identity of the modern antagonist, but the historical elements combined with Howe's romanticized portrayal of her protagonist's research are endearing enough that the clichés never grow tiresome.
"The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane" will appeal to those interested in the history of Salem or general witchcraft history as well as fans of historical fiction. Howe's writing is an excellent introduction to the academic history of Salem for non-historians and the fantasy elements will entertain even those who do not enjoy history.
It reminded me a lot of Elizabeth Kostova's The Historian, but with a less skilled protagonist. And though vampires certainly appeared in "new" twists in fiction, the Salem witch trials felt equally overdone to me. Nothing felt new about this book. And though it was easy to see why the author chose this topic (two of her relatives stood accused in the Trials - one even, who makes a cameo in the novel, was condemned to death), the mix of magic and scholarly mystery never flowed together for me. It felt forced and artificial. I never once felt swept into the story and other than the magical dog, I never felt worried or particularly invested in any of the characters' fates.
And on the topic of that dog, the book displayed some abrupt inconsistencies with the perspective. Arlo's viewpoint was used a few times (mostly to avoid romantic scenes, it seemed) and towards the end, even a rat's POV was offered.
But, my biggest problem with the book could lay entirely at the feet of this one sentence: "Like a lot of people who are known only by nicknames, Connie tended to forget that she had any connection to that word." As someone who also is known only by a nickname and who is married to someone known only by a nickname, I must attest to the sheer ridiculous convenience of the way that Connie managed to forget her first name for two months (when all along she must have been using it daily on her IDs and signing into all of these rather negatively represented archives and libraries)...
I really wanted to like the book, and though I never hated it, its elements never gelled for me. It will be interesting to see what the rest of the book club thought of it, though!
As Connie uncovers more information, she meets a local steeplejack doing church renovation nearby, a handsome young man named Sam who also has an interest in unearthing history's secrets. Together they get involved in the hunt for Deliverance's story and fall in love during the process. What they unravel is that Deliverance was an excommunicated witch who fell from grace during the time of the Salem Witch Trials in the late 1600s, and that their answers reside in finding Deliverance's book of spells, or her Physick Book. The novel switches back and forth from the 1990s with Connie and Sam on a treasure hunt for the book, to the times of Deliverance and her ancestors as the book is passed from daughter to daughter, allowing Connie in the future to slowly trace it's path.
I'm at a loss as to why this book is getting so much hype and is on every book club reading list for discussion. It's not horrible, but not fabulous and certainly nothing to write home about. This method of switching from the future to the past as a literary character hunts for a lost relic, is popular and overdone, and Deliverance Dane travels along with the other novels in this genre being extremely formulaic and a bit predictable. I found Connie and Sam rather lifeless, and found it is almost inconceivable that Connie, a Harvard grad upon receiving her professorship, can be so clueless and presented as a bit of an airhead. For the short time within the 371 pages that we are allowed to meet Deliverance Dane herself, she too was rather an undeveloped heroine. I do see future promise for the author because the writing, although not overly accomplished, could improve if she continues to write and gets more polished. There were some occasional inconsistencies and typing errors that an editor should have caught, but minor enough so that some readers might not even be aware of them. My main concern with this book is that it strongly lacked excitement, suspense, or drama. If the author had the intention of setting this up as a mystery, she failed in her effort due to the fact that we know who the villain is right from the get-go! The story just plods along at a not too rapid pace and I felt very wishy-washy as I turned the pages rather uninterested.
I do have a major gripe however that I feel stands out like a sore thumb, and a might be a very touchy one to other Massachusetts readers. The author employs continual use of the local New England accent. The tendency to drop the Rs and INGs in words is a New England trait in speaking and is heard from in most of the elder generations around Massachusetts. Sometimes the author uses it in dialog and sometimes she doesn't allowing inconsistency, and she just happens to not use it for her character of Catherine the soon-to-be professor, as if she is beyond speaking so lowly. The author indeed presents this manner of speaking as if she is making fun of the New England manner of speech, and as a Massachusetts girl herself, I found this appalling and just not cool. It could have been done without, and in my opinion, was not necessary. I actually found it offensive and not an attractive aspect for a debut author wishing for recognition in this very competitive literary world.