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The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane Hardcover – June 9, 2009
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From Publishers Weekly
Set in Cambridge and Marblehead, Mass., Howe's propulsive if derivative novel alternates between the 1991 story of college student Connie Goodwin and a group of 17th-century outcasts. After moving into her grandmother's crumbling house to get it in shape for sale, Connie comes across a small key and piece of paper reading only Deliverance Dane. The Salem witch trials, contemporary Wicca and women's roles in early American history figure prominently as Connie does her academic detective work. What follows is a breezy read in which Connie must uncover the mystery of a shadowy book written by the enigmatic Deliverance Dane. During Connie's investigation, she relies on a handsome steeplejack for romance and her mother and an expert on American colonial history for clues and support. While the twisty plot and Howe's habit of ending chapters with cliffhangers are straight out of the thriller playbook, the writing is solid overall, and Howe's depiction of early American life and the witch trials should appeal to readers who enjoyed The Heretic's Daughter. The witchcraft angle and frenetic pacing beg for a screen adaptation. (June)
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*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
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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.
Easy read, fun as an academic and north eastern American myself. It's not a book I would pick up though just for fun. I think the story itself and ways you can identify with the main character can be limiting. Not sure I would have enjoyed it if I knew nothing about academics, or witchcraft/pagan interests to begin with.
Suitable for high school and up I'd say!
I enjoy historical / research mystery. that this is based upon real events makes it better.
I took a while to pick it up, but once I did, I breezed through it.