A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness
|A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness
|Reviewer: Louise Laurie
|Summary: A generously-paged book with a generous plot. Academic, American Diana meets with enigmatic and mysterious Matthew; he's mysterious for many, many reasons and Diana is about to find out exactly what they are within Harkness's fantastical witches/vampires/daemons environment.
|Date: February 2011
The back cover is full of praise for this debut novel which has been involved in a publishing 'tussle', no less. Impressive. I was looking forward to reading what all the fuss was about. The title is terrific too. But was the book a terrific read?
We first meet Diana, one of the two main characters, as she's working away industriously within the Bodleian Library, Oxford. Suddenly, she's spooked by something. But for the life of her, she cannot figure out what it might be. She's a sensible person and can't think of a viable reason. But she has hidden depths as we find out very early on in this novel. In Diana own words My skin tingled as it always did when another witch looked at me. We are left in no doubt. She's a witch. It's hereditary apparently on her mother's side. But Diana is one of those thoroughly modern young women. She puts all this witchcraft and witches business firmly to one side and gets on with her life. It's difficult at times though. Her 'art' can cause no end of problems.
And, like many of us err, humans, when Diana is up against the clock, working a tight schedule, she has been known to slip, to use her witches' power to well, hurry things along a bit, make life a tad easier. And one week-day evening she gives in - carries out a quick and rather innocent act of witchery. But she's been spotted. Enter Matthew. He's a complex character, strikingly good-looking to boot and so begins an interesting relationship between the two. He's not what he seems either. To say that they have their ups and downs is putting it mildly.
Harkness has a lovely, relaxed style of story-telling so that although there's often a lot going on in her sentences, it's also easy on the eye, easy on the page and easy to read. Once I started I was immediately drawn into the plot. I found that the first part of the book is centred on the emotions and the couple's differing backgrounds. It's also telling how Diana and Matthew relate - or not - to each other in social and even private situations. There's also plenty of whispering - noises off, if you like, going on around them. In fact, getting some time alone proves tricky. But perhaps that's just as well ...
Into the academic air of beautiful Oxford in this story there also penetrates the sometimes divisive subjects such as science and evolution - and much, much more. Food for thought. The reader does have a lot to think about but it's both fun and engaging. The verbal exchanges between Diana and Matthew are delightful, when they're not bickering, or at each other's throats (pun intended). Their sparring dialogues are clever, intelligent, witty (as you might expect from two academics) but it is never, ever dull. Let me just give one taster I know what morphogenisis is ... says Diana to Matthew on one such occasion. He's a cool customer. He's also cool, calm and collected to an exasperating degree. I adored Matthew (although I know I shouldn't). This book is jam-packed with secrets. Mind-popping secrets. Edge-of-your-armchair secrets.
The second part of the novel is full of action and reaction from various characters to various, rather serious situations. There is usually an accompanying sense of danger. As you can imagine in a book with this title, there are plenty of strange goings-on all over the place and yes, plenty of bumps in the night too.
The lead-up to - and the ending itself is superb and I had a tear in my eye several times. Is this a grown-up Harry Potter-esque book, I wonder. All-in-all, a creative tour de force. Highly recommended.
I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.
If this book appeals try Lonely Werewolf Girl by Martin Millar.
You can read more book reviews or buy A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
You can read more book reviews or buy A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness at Amazon.com.
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