- Paperback: 472 pages
- Publisher: Da Capo Press; Third Impression edition (September 3, 2013)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0306821206
- ISBN-13: 978-0306821202
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.2 x 9.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars See all reviews (65 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #52,137 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Six Women of Salem: The Untold Story of the Accused and Their Accusers in the Salem Witch Trials Paperback – September 3, 2013
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A well written novel approach to the witch trials worth the time taken while you await the trick-or-treaters this Halloween.”
Open Letters Monthly, 10/1/13
Immediately immerses its readers in the events of that horrible, vertiginous year, a year which almost certainly started off as mere pranking by some mean-spirited girls but then grew into something much blacker and more complicated. Roach immerses her readers through her customary vivid, forceful writing The seriously inquisitive now have another great book on the subject.”
ForeWord, Winter 2013
[Roach's] fact-based insight into these women's lives, along with the moments she breaks into short, fictionalized scenes, puts these lives into perspective, allowing readers to connect with the events in a way not afforded in other accounts of this period Roach's work will shed new light on the Salem witch trials, not only by showing how the accusers may have truly believed they were bewitched and tortured, but also by making the innocent women come to life.”
Library Journal, 12/1/2013
Roach shows how thoroughly she has researched her subject while also giving modern readers something to think about in our own days of social and political witch hunts. Six Women of Salem will provide a greater sense of the real-world lives of those who engaged in and were victimized by those events.”
San Francisco Book Review/Sacramento Book Review, 10/7/13
The book is super detailed and fantastically informative on the subject An eye-opening piece of work Each page drips with an honest and impartial narrative Roach has done a great job in honoring the memories of these women with a tasteful and harmonious book.”
Kirkus Reviews, 9/15/13
[Full of] the author's deep knowledge of virtually every man, woman and child affected by the trials in this bizarre period.”
Roach delivers a historically intimate narrative that gives readers a front row seat to this desperate and dangerous time in history.”Examiner.com, 9/27
Roanoke Times, 10/27/13
A focused look at the lives of six of the accused, their accusers, and their neighbors who were part of a dark period in American history.”
Leavenworth Times, 10/29/13
About the Author
She is a lifelong resident of Watertown, Massachusetts.
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Witchcraft-like practices, and suspicions concerning them, grew quickly in the space of about a year to dominate life in and around Salem. The hysteria fed on itself with help from at least one minister and a number of families and individuals who believed themselves to be "afflicted" by the evil powers of witches.
One curious aspect of the accusations was their frequent reference to "spectral evidence": the afflicted would often claim to see the accused in ghostlike form tormenting the innocent. One need not be a pure-science devotee to dismiss such claims. The Bible itself warns against the ability of the spirit of evil to deceive and assume disguises, and Jesus of course would surely be pissed about the self-righteous condemnations that his followers here imposed on their neighbors.
Spectral evidence was at least questionable as legal proof of witchcraft, and its eventually complete rejection by the law was pivotal in the final undoing of the witch-hunt madness. As the accusations and trials reached further and further toward the end of 1692, public support eroded. Wisdom finally resurfaced, helped in part by the threat of libel suits on behalf of the accused.
It still remains a mystery to me how so many individuals in a community could have been so deeply crazed -- superstition, folk magic, and the sinful extremism of some who claim to be "religious" somehow fall short of fully explaining it. In recent years it has been suggested that ergot, a fungus that may have grown in the rye flour commonly used, creates a hallucinogenic toxin that could have played a part. Ms. Roach is skeptical of the ergot explanation; in her view it would have affected the whole population and not only certain individuals. I'd like to see more scientific information on that -- as with many ailments, could some individuals be better suited to resist a factor such as toxic exposure?
Six Women of Salem is a well-told story of this tragedy, and shows a wealth of research on the personal stories of both the accused and the afflicted. It conveys a sense of living right in the moment when the action takes place -- such that this reader could imagine how, in that environment, one might observe odd events, and lacking other explanations might suspect witchcraft. There is one section about a third of the way through the story that seems overly burdened with details of accusations and whose specter is afflicting whom -- those who seek the fullest possible discussion of the facts may want to read every word, but after a while I just glossed over that part.
Beyond mere history, one can appreciate the great personal agony of the accused and their families. The ending gives an overview of how some of the accusers sought forgiveness from their victims, and various families eventually reconciled.
introductions, based upon the limited documentation available, of Rebecca Nurse, Bridget Bishop, Mary English, all accused of witchcraft, and Ann Putnam Sr., Tituba, and Mary Warren, who were heavily involved in making accusations. The detail that the author has compiled helps to make these women seem real.
The second section is an account, month by month, of the hearings and trials, with comprehensive and often verbatim descriptions of the testimony of all involved. Initially, this is fascinating, but as the trials grind on, much of the information involves the dramatic “fits” of the girls supposed to have been bewitched, and their reactions to the suspects. Necessarily, many other individuals, in addition to the eponymous six, enter into the action. Soon these accounts become monotonous in their astonishing similarity, prompting the reader to wonder how the distinguished and “learned” judges allowed themselves to be taken in for eight months. More interesting are the vignettes in which the author imagines what the six might have been thinking at the various steps along the way to the convictions and deaths. Tales of how relatives worked to exonerate their women, coupled with depictions of the hangings, are heartbreaking.
The book’s final section deals with the aftermath, when colonial authorities put a stop to the proceedings, shocked at how many were being accused (over 200 men and women) and executed. Once they stopped the admission of spectral evidence, the wind was taken out of the sails of the entire hysterical happening. A complete listing of documentary evidence, with volumes and page numbers, is provided for each chapter. A series of schematic maps is also included.
Although it does lag in sections, Six Women of Salem is well worth reading for students, historians, and anyone interested in the terrible year of 1692 and the witchcraft phenomenon in its American particulars.
Court documents make it clear that to be accused was to be guilty. Many of the accused, harangued and beaten down by the interrogations, freely confessed, then went on to join the accusers in naming other "witches". The sense of horror I felt while reading the accounts was equal to anything that Stephen King has produced in me. It is one of the saddest books I have ever read.
As a writer, Marilynne Roach is dry. Which is a shame because she desperately wants to bring these people to life: to depart from the stereotypes and present them as "individuals -- people with real stories, real lives, real suffering and real deaths". Part of the problem is that she omits no detail. In addition to the characters themselves we also hear about their brothers, sisters, parents, grandparents, etc. The flood of names is bewildering. It's not an easy read and that's why I gave it only 4 stars.
Yet read it you should. I will read it again and again, as a reminder and as a memorial to those poor souls.