After the death of her husband, Alice is summoned home by her brother, Matthew, with news that her mother has also recently passed away. When Alice arrives to her hometown, she learns that Matthew has a new job, one that finds him investigating suspected witches. Alice tries to dissuade Matthew from his actions but soon finds herself too close to the women who Matthew accuses.
I appreciated how the author touched on how those that accused others of witchcraft did, at times, have ulterior motives. Witchcraft, just like some accusations made today that are hard to prove or disprove, was one of those claims that could be made and your problems could vanish while you appear to be the pious one for coming forward with the claim. I think this book provides an important lesson that these kinds of accusations can be quite damaging and are often unfair and untrue.
Alice was an interesting character. She doesn't really believe in all of the witchcraft accusations that are being made but she also does not fully doubt the existence of fantastical beings that bring evil to earth. She is more apt to believe that a spirit has caused changes in the garden than in some other scientific reason. She is more in line with the beliefs of the people of her time but claims to be more progressive than she really is.
The writing made this a bit slower of a read for me but it did not detract from the story, which I really enjoyed. I have read a lot of books, especially historical fiction, on the witch trials but most often they take place in Salem, Massachusetts, whereas this one takes place in England. Most novels will have the protagonist as a member of the community or as an accused witch but The Witchfinder's Sister is told from the perspective of someone close to the community leaders who investigate the accused witches. If you have read a lot of historical fiction about the witch trials, I encourage you to give this one a try because it is so different from others that are out there.
I really enjoyed this book and I think it would be a great book for someone who likes historical fiction, especially historical fiction with a bit of a mystery or thrill to it.
Beth Underdown discusses her book in this video:
Reviews of books like this one:
The Wicked City by Beatriz Williams
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The Women in the Castle by Jessica Shattuck
More information about witch trials:
The Witches: Suspicion, Betrayal, and Hysteria in 1692 Salem by Stacy Schiff- This book gives some really interesting reasons for the accusations made during the Salem witch trials and is a really interesting book to read on the cases.
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