Title: Daughters of the Witching Hill
Author: Mary Sharatt
Source: Review copy
Set in: Lancashire, England
Hardcover: 352 pages
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; 1 edition (April 7, 2010)
Rating: 4.75 out of 5
I have read quite a few books on Witches and witch trials but I don’t think there are many written on the 1612 Pendle witch-hunt trial, at least not as beautiful as this one. The author, Mary Sharratt, has focused on the story of Bess Southerns or Mother Demdike as she was known around that part.
Bess Southerns is a poor, old widow who lives in the Malkin Tower with her daughter Liza and her grand-daughter Alizon and grandson Jamie. Bess is a healer, she is known as a cunning women for her healing skills. She uses her old Catholic faith to pray for others even though it’s a banned faith and the retributions could be high. One small mistake, one small rumor and she could be hanged. Bess always tries to tread the right path and not harm anyone, to always use her gift for the good.
She teaches her healing charms to her best friend from childhood, Chattox. But in poverty and helplessness, she turns to dark magic. What this does to their friendship is indeed very sad. When Bess tries to teach her granddaughter Alizon some of her magic, she refuses. She is scared and runs away from the power that could be hers, which eventually lead to the Pendle witch trials.
Mary Sharratt’s writing is as beautiful as her descriptions are vivid. What I loved most about this book was the sense of place. She brings this time in Lancashire, England alive for the readers. She has used some excerpts from the book written by court clerk Thomas Potts which makes it even more real.
Since it is based on a true story, I knew what was going to happen in the end, but that didn’t stop me from biting my nails and wishing and hoping that it did not. Another thing that is very striking about this book are the strong female characters. In spite of their poverty and desperation, these women shine. They fight for their existence and try to keep their head high in the worst possible situations.
This is one book that will stay with me for a long time. For those who like to read about the witch hunts, definitely read this book. But even if you are not interested in them, you will definitely like this book. The daughters of the Witching Hill is so much more than just another witch-hunt story.