I’ve always loved a good witch book, and have read extensively about the Salem Witch Trials. It’s fascinating to read about the factors that lead to this type of hysteria and the tragedies that followed. There were witch-hunts in many other places, more notably in England. Daughters of the Witching Hill by Mary Sharratt brings history to life by chronicling the Pendle witch-hunt of 1612.
In this book we follow Bess Southerns, a destitute woman who makes a meager living blessing people and animals who are ill. Additionally she heals the sick and can foretell the future. Her family lives in poverty, works odd jobs and begs to obtain food. Many years pass and the reader learns that Bess’s skills are not normal; she does posses a certain level of magical ability. Eventually she instructs her granddaughter Alizon in the craft, hoping to pass on the family tradition. Unfortunately, tragedy strikes Alizon one day when a passing peddler suffers a stroke after crossing her path. What unfolds is widespread hysteria and the accusation and arrest of many other people.
This book is very highly rated and received rave reviews. That being said, I had to force myself to get through it and finally finish. I can’t say it was a bad book, because it isn’t. The details are well researched and the story was weaved among factual people and events. It takes a good writer to do this well and I respect the work that it took to write this story. Personally, I had a hard time reading it because it was hard for me to take a liking to any of the main characters. There was no emotional attachment, which is important for me while reading books based on historical events. I would recommend this book if you are particularly interested in the topic, or would like to read about 15th century England. The description of daily life at this time will make most 21st century readers feel grateful for the everyday life we enjoy today.