The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe: History grad student Connie Goodwin has a busy summer ahead of her. Fresh from passing her oral exams to continue in the Ph.D program at Harvard, she is under pressure from her adviser, Manning Chilton, to make progress on her dissertation and her mother has asked her to prepare her grandmother's house for sale. Connie finds the house in much worse shape than she had expected, but she finds a way to combine her two summer jobs when a crumbling book reveals a strange key containing a slip of paper with the words "Deliverance Dane." Connie discovers that Deliverance is a forgotten Salem witch, and sets out to investigate her history, as well as to find her spellbook, which would assure her academic success. While researching, Connie meets handsome Sam who is very interested in her research. The story shifts between present-day Connie's research and the stories of Deliverance and her descendants with ease, and I found the seventeenth-century portions to be very well-written and engaging. Connie's story is quite a page-turner as well, as her research leads her from one clue to another, Chilton becomes more and more fervent in his insistence that Connie find the spellbook, and Sam falls mysteriously ill.
This is an excellent summer read. I love fiction that also teaches me something, and I learned quite a bit about seventeenth-century life and the Salem Witch Trials. Connie was engaging, if a bit slow on the uptake at times, and I thought the supernatural element was handled okay. There were two "revelations" that I thought were perfectly obvious, but that didn't detract from my enjoyment. Anyone involved in academia will enjoy the portrayal of grad student life, and anyone interested in research will enjoy Connie's slow but steady uncovering of facts. I wonder if this book were pitched to the publisher as "The DaVinci Code meets the Salem Witch Trials," but it's far better written than The DaVinci Code, and I think it stands on its own quite well. It avoids the high body count/number of explosions of Interred With Their Bones (which has a similar past/present setup, but deals with Shakespeare). It's a breezier read than The Historian, which I thoroughly enjoyed but would certainly not haul to the beach! I recommend this to anyone interested in the Salem Witch Trials, fiction with a touch of the supernatural, or fiction based on historical research--it was a fun, gripping read!
Available June 9.
Holly here. :-) I really enjoyed this book too! I am prone to liking most books that have something do with witches either in a fictional/supernatural way or historically speaking. For some reason this subject sort of fascinates me. Like Allison, I felt like the book moved back and forth between the two time periods with ease. I also saw the revelations as quite obvious, but no less entertaining. I really enjoyed the scenes set in the library and various archives, but that's my museum geek side coming through. Overall, this was a very entertaining novel as well as interesting!
Now, as much as I think most people would like this book, there were couple things that bothered me. Not enough to really take away from it for me. They are quite piddly but bothered me nonetheless. The author made a habit of phonetically writing out the old Boston accents of some of the characters. This sort of got on my nerves. I would rather have her describe the accent and then just write the conversation normally leaving the accent up to my imagination. I've seen enough movies to know what that accent sounds like. It just sort of slowed my reading down.
There is also a tiny bit about alchemy toward the end. I won't say too much more about that because I don't want to give too much away. But I sort of rolled my eyes. Perhaps, I just tend to be drawn to treasure hunt/puzzle/mystery type books so that I read an overabundance of books with a slant toward alchemy as a subject (The Alchemist/Michael Scott, The Eight, The Fire/Katherine Neville, The 39 Clues series, and I'm sure there are more that I'm forgetting about). But I think I'm growing tired of the subject. And I sort of felt like it didn't have to be in this book. Maybe Alchemy is just an en vogue subject right now? Who knows. Just my own personal gripe that really doesn't have anything to do with how this book was written or what other people might think about the book. And really this section is quite short and a somewhat insignificant side story. Hopefully my knitpicking won't deter anyone.
I think most people who pick this one up will find a thoroughly engaging read!
And now for the giveaway. Holly and Allison each have an extra ARC of The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane to give away! This contest will only be open to the U.S. and Canada (with apologies to international folks - we'll have more worldwide giveaways in the future!). For one entry, tell us your favorite summer read. For three more entries, follow this blog publicly (of course, current followers count!). For another three entries, blog about this giveaway. There's no need to post each entry on a separate comment, but do give us the link to your blog entry, tell us how you follow, and make sure we have a way to reach you (if your profile has an e-mail address, that's fine). Entries are due Wednesday, May 20 at 9:00 a.m. EDT.