The number of women my brother Matthew killed, so far as I can reckon it, is one hundred and six…
1645. When Alice Hopkins’ husband dies in a tragic accident, she has no choice but to return to the small Essex town of Manningtree, where her brother Matthew still lives.
But home is no longer a place of safety. Matthew has changed, and there are rumours spreading through the town: whispers of witches, and of a great book, in which her brother is gathering women’s names.
To what lengths will her brother’s obsession drive him?
And what choice will Alice make, when she finds herself at the very heart of his plan?
I always find myself drawn to books about witchcraft. The history of witchcraft and the witch trials is something that has fascinated me for years. When I was a child I visited Clarke Hall in Yorkshire (a wonderful museum that is sadly no longer open) on a school trip, and remember being told a story about a woman who was accused of being a witch because she used herbs to heal. She had to sneak out of Clarke Hall through secret passages and had to climb out of a window on to a horse to escape being killed. It is a story that has stayed with me ever since I was told it at just a few years old, and sparked my interest in the obsession with witchcraft throughout our history.
The Witchfinder’s Sister is written from the point of view of Alice, who is the fictional sister of Matthew Hopkins (the real life Witchfinder General). I thought it was an interesting way to tell the story, and I really felt for Alice and everything she went through. There were a couple of times when I thought this book felt like a Medieval version of Call the Midwife, but only because of certain scenes. There were other times when it was rather thought provoking, making me question the consequences of our actions, such as could doing what appears to be the right thing, and saving a life, eventually result in the death of many?
This felt like a mix of historical and women’s fiction, perhaps with a hint of young adult, as the story had a sort of simplistic feel to it, making it a quick and easy read in the way I tend to experience with young adult fiction. Sometimes I felt despite it being a historical novel it felt a little too modern. Perhaps the language used, or maybe it was even the behaviour of the characters sometimes, I’m not too sure, but it was definitely a feeling I had throughout the book.
Although I did enjoy this story, there were times when I was left wanting more. I think I expected it to be more harrowing than it was. Perhaps if it had been a bit longer and gone into more detail in places, keeping me in that situation for longer, I would have felt more emotional attachment to what was going on, rather than feeling I was experiencing it from a distance. On a couple of occasions where certain scenes were longer, I definitely did feel that emotional attachment.
I enjoyed the beginning, lost interest a little somewhere in the middle due to it feeling slow, but was then gripped again for the last 20% of the book. Overall, a good story. If you like the sound of the blurb, and go into this expecting quite a quick, easy read, rather than in-depth details of the witch trials, then I’m sure you will enjoy it. I imagine it will also be very much enjoyed by those who have an interest in witchcraft, but have read very little about it before. This may be a good fictional introduction that could lead you to want to find out more about the history of witchcraft.
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