The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe

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The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe

Category: Historical Fiction
Rating: 3/5
Reviewer: Luci Davin
Reviewed by Luci Davin
Summary: A young 20th century academic researches the treatment of women suspected of witchcraft in 17th century Massachusetts. An appealing storyline buried under far too many words, and a heroine who is too much slow to recognise the obvious, make this a frustrating read.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 480 Date: April 2010
Publisher: Penguin
ISBN: 978-0141047553

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Connie is doing postgraduate research on witchcraft. Although she is initially rather wary of being asked to clear out her grandmother’s old house, the project turns out to lead to lots of exciting possibilities, including romance and perhaps original sources for her studies.

I enjoy novels which use historical material and this had all the ingredients to be a great read – a young woman researching history from a feminist perspective, and the subject of her research, the trials and executions of a group of women accused of witchcraft in 17th century Massachusetts. A love interest for the heroine doesn’t hurt either.

All the ingredients for a great read, with a likeable character and an interesting story, were there, but I was rather disappointed.

The main problem was that everything was very padded out and overwritten – the 20th century story (set in 1991) and the 17th/18th century ones could easily have been told in half the words. I wondered if the author’s postgraduate research training had influenced the way in which she wrote her first novel – it would account for the way in which research was sometimes set out and perhaps for the excessive length.

I also thought that for a woman studying for a PhD at Harvard, Connie was sometimes very slow to piece things together or to realise what was going on. Some of the revelations right at the end were astonishing in the wrong sense – how could Connie not have known or understood some of the things she learns before?

That said, I did find this book quite a page turner. I quite liked Connie even when I felt impatient with her not realising things, and the romantic subplot added some much needed dramatic tension to pull me through all those surplus words.

I would probably borrow another book by this author from the library, as I think she might write a much better novel in the future with a tough editor.

Thank you to the publishers for sending a copy to the Bookbag.

Another novel with an academic heroine and past/present storylines is The Devlin Diary by Christi Phillips. Or for another look at women in 17th century America, try Savage Lands by Clare Clark.

Buy The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe at Amazon.com.


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