Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane

One of the two magic related books I bought at Borders recently. I felt a little self-concious and awkward like the chick who rung me out was judging me for buying two books relating to witches and wizards. But you know I’m an awkward human being in general and I over think everything so she probably didn’t even notice. I guess my Harry Potter fixation extends to other literary ventures.

Anyway, this one is about a girl, Connie, who is studying for her PhD in Colonial History at Harvard. She inherits or rather is instructed to fix up an old house in Marblehead and by old I mean early 17th Century. She is cleaning the house and finds an old bible with a key inside of it. Inside the key is a name: Deliverance Dane. She investigates and finds out that Deliverance was an accused witch who hanged in the Salem Witch Trials and finds that she had a physick book which contained spells or potions directions. Long story short… she finds a previously unknown accused witch who was an actual witch. So she goes on the hunt for this book for her dissertation. The book goes back and forth between Connie and Deliverance and her descendants as we learn about the book and the magic they are capable of.

It was an interesting concept, the idea that there was an actual witch who was accused at the Salem trials. Not to mention I’m all for the combination of history and a mystical element. The magic here was what is known as vernacular magic or folk magic. It’s not so much about magical spells or “silly wand waving” as Snape would say. It’s more about potions and enchantments to help people. It sprang from the concept of the cunning woman who was sort of like the town healer (think that scene in The Princess Bride where they take Wesley to the wizard who declares him “mostly dead” and gives him a cure). The book looked at an interesting and arguably more accurate view of the witch trials. No not that there were real witches, though there were cunning folk, just the motivation and process behind the witch trials. I learned a lot about that time in history from this book.

As historical fiction, the historical part was spot on but what was lacking, however, was the fiction part. It was a pretty simple read to be honest and lacked a lot of the drama and suspense that I was hoping for. It had brief moments but they were far and few between. The back of the book compared it to The Historian, a book which I adore, but this one didn’t compare at all. They also tried to include some romance which seemed forced, there seemed little purpose for it here. It wasn’t a bad book, I just wasn’t impressed. Even the mystery was lacking. There were parts that were way too easy to figure out and others that they didn’t touch on at all. I would have liked to have been able to figure out for myself where the book was hidden but they insulted my intelligence and didn’t let me. In fact in general I felt like this book insulted my intelligence. I was a history major and I love solving mysteries and suspense. Also a minor issue I had was the flashbacks included a lot of writing that was meant to be in the Boston vernacular (replacing r’s with h’s for the accent). I mean I live in New England and I’m all for the accent but it was just confusing and made it needlessly harder to read.

I liked the book. It was okay. I was just a little disappointed. I had high hopes and it didn’t live up to it.

1 comment:

  1. If you'd like more in-depth "historical fiction" about Salem, try THE AFFLICTED GIRLS A Novel of Salem by Suzy Witten (ISBN: 978-0-615-32313-8), winner of the 2010 IPPY Silver Medal for Historical Fiction. "Something terrible happened in Salem Village in 1692 ... but it isn't what you think!"