Saturday, May 8, 2021

2021 - 75 - Hour of the Witch; Chris Bohjalian


TITLE/AUTHOR Hour of the Witch; Chris Bohjalian

PUBLISHER: Doubleday

YEAR PUBLISHED: 2021

GENRE: Fiction / Historical

FORMAT:  eGalley LENGTH: 416 pp.

SOURCE:  NetGalley/publisher

SETTING(s):  1662 Massachusetts


ONE SENTENCE SUMMARY:  A young woman risks everything, including her life, in 1662 Massachusetts when she decides to divorce her abusive husband.

BRIEF REVIEW:   Having grown up in Massachusetts where tales of witchcraft were plentiful, Hour of the Witch, felt very different.   At the heart of the novel is Mary Deerfield, the 24 year old daughter of well-to-do Puritan parents and wife toThomas Deerfield, a widower twice her age. The couple has been married for five years and Mary has not been able to conceive.  Thomas is a mean and physically, verbally and sexually abusive spouse and, Mary has the bruises to prove it which she has tried repeatedly to cover up. The worst of the abuse comes when Thomas has been out drinking. One night he drives a 3-tined fork through her hand breaking her bones. Mary is determined to flee her five-year marriage by filing for divorce and heading back to the home to her parents. 

The cards seemed stacked against Mary once testimony from witnesses is heard and evidence associated with witchcraft is introduced and used against her at a trial.  

I loved the story and I especially loved Mary's character -  a strong woman who was not afraid to take a stand and speak out against her prominent husband despite the risks and possible consequences of doing so at that time in history. The author did his homework and the story felt rich in period and historical detail but, I did have issues while reading this.  The story itself was excellent but, I almost gave up early on because of the constant use of the Old English over and over again --- "Thy thou didst leave?"   "Hast thou pondered?" "Doust thou sayest?"   This really annoyed me and as a result the book took me much longer to read as once I put it down I was less enthused about picking it up again. I am glad I persisted, the payoff was worth it.  

This would be a good book to discuss for book groups - the silencing of non-conforming women, public shaming, spousal abuse etc.   I do recommend this book if you are not bothered by the writing style.


RATING:  3.5/5 stars

29 comments:

  1. This was on my radar and I've wanted to try this author but the Old English phraseology would drive me absolutely crazy! I think I'll pass on it.

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    1. I'm not a writer but, that style was so off-putting. Too bad as it was a great story overall.

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  2. My copy arrived today! I'm intrigued by the premise. I can see how too much Old English could get annoying though.

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  3. For some reason this didn't appeal to me - and I usually read his latest novel. Good to know it would be good for book clubs.

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    1. Yes, nice discussion material and a good story, just that old English that bugged me.

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  4. Sounds like a good read. But perhaps a bit on the heavy side for my current mood. But I loved your review!

    Hope you will have a good week!

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    1. Thanks - I'm a mood reader as well. Good story but, not for everyone certainly.

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  5. This one sounds fascinating. I can't imagine what it must have been like for a woman living through the kind of mass hysteria of those days that meant any nonconformist female was taking her life into her own hands. Divorce, I'm assuming, was so uncommon in that era, that it must have taken a very brave woman to push for one.

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    1. She was a great protagonist. Yes, I'm not even sure whether divorce happened back then.

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  6. Interesting. I didn't even know divorce was an option back then.

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  7. That sounds like it had a lot of potential.

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  8. The book does seem to address some pretty important issues. I've read quite a bit recently about Bohjalian's work, but I've never read any of his books. Perhaps I'll get around to him one of these days.

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    1. I read most of his books and especially loved many of his earlier books.

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  9. The story sounds fascinating, but the Old English would probably drive me nuts. The audio might be better for me...

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    1. I'd be curious how the audio would be or would it be worse? It's a good story.

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  10. It seems to be a lot of thou ... so thanks for the warning on the speech. It seems like you did still like it so I might get to it. thanks.

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    1. I did like the story just the reading of it was difficult. Wondering how the audio would sound or whether it might be worse.

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  11. Too bad the use of old English tarnished this story. I am not drawn to Salem-type stories, but it's a shame it didn't quite work out.

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  12. The book sounds fascinating, but Old English would slow down my reading considerably. Thank you for sharing your thoughts about this book, Diane.

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    1. Great story but most of us are not used to the old English and I found it slowed me down a lot.

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  13. The Old English thing is a deal breaker for me if there is a lot of it. I love him though.

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    1. I love his books and have read just about all of them I think. It's a good story but boy there was A LOT of the annoying old English, it was almost a DNF.

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  14. I'd love to read this one. I am okay with Old English as long as I am in the frame of mind to read it. So will save this for the right time.

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  15. I'm currently reading this one and you are right, I think this would be a great selection for a book group discussion. I get your point about the old English and it took me a bit at first but now I'm not too bothered by it. I'm just curious how it will all pan out for Mary!

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