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Hour of the Witch
Hour of the Witch
Author: Chris Bohjalian
Boston, 1662. Mary Deerfield is twenty-four-years-old. Her skin is porcelain, her eyes delft blue, and in England she might have had many suitors. But here in the New World, amid this community of saints, Mary is the second wife of Thomas Deerfield, a man as cruel as he is powerful. When Thomas, prone to drunken rage, drives a three-tined fork i...  more »
ISBN-13: 9780385542432
ISBN-10: 0385542437
Publication Date: 5/4/2021
Pages: 416
  • Currently 3.3/5 Stars.

3.3 stars, based on 12 ratings
Publisher: Doubleday
Book Type: Hardcover
Other Versions: Paperback
Members Wishing: 113
Reviews: Member | Amazon | Write a Review

Top Member Book Reviews

perryfran avatar reviewed Hour of the Witch on + 1101 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 2
Very engaging historical drama taking place in 1662 about a young woman in Puritanical Boston who is married to a husband who slaps and abuses her. Mary Deerfield is twenty-four years old and is the second wife of Thomas Deerfield who in a rage drives a three-tined fork into Mary's hand. Mary decides to try and divorce Thomas but many in the harsh community find fault with Mary and her divorce is settled in favor of Thomas. So Mary must go back to him but she has not given up hope. She had been accused of consorting with the devil when some forks, considered devil's tines by the Puritans, are found buried in her garden. She had also treated a dying boy with herbs but when he died some thought she and the devil had something to do with it. She wishes her husband dead but will she take the necessary steps to gain her freedom from him? Her actions and the accusations of others lead to her trial for witchcraft. Can she be saved?

Overall, I found this tale of life in Puritanical New England to be quite compelling. As usual, the novel included things I was unaware of and immersed the reader in life of the 17th century. I had to look up a few things including a cooking implement called a spider (which Thomas blamed on one of Mary's injuries). Turns out a spider is a frying pan with legs so it can be set directly over a fire.

Bohjalian created some very memorable characters for the novel and you really got a feel for the superstitions and prejudices of the Puritan culture of the time. I have read one other novel by him, The Double Bind which I also enjoyed so I'm sure I will be reading more of his works.
njmom3 avatar reviewed Hour of the Witch on + 1304 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
Hour of the Witch has all the elements I love about Chris Bohjalian's books. The history is researched and real. Fascinating history aside, the book is at the same time fiction and tells a story that keeps me rapidly turning pages from beginning to the end. What I might expect of this book is the story of Puritan New England and a male dominated society. Yet, this book is really the story of the women - those who would tear each other down and those who would lift each other up.

Read my complete review at http://www.memoriesfrombooks.com/2022/02/hour-of-witch.html

Reviewed for NetGalley.
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terez93 avatar reviewed Hour of the Witch on + 257 more book reviews
This riveting novel is inspired by real events. Although the main character is a fictional one, many others mentioned throughout were actual persons. Despite the shocking brutality described herein, in truth, the novel no doubt relates the experiences of many young women of the period, the mid-seventeenth century, when Puritanical Boston was in the grip of a witchcraze, it seems, reaching its zenith with the Salem Witch Trials in 1692. In fact, some of the events were heavily inspired by actual court records, including cases where young women sought to have their marriages dissolved on account of the vile cruelty of their husbands, who were widely considered to be essentially their owners.

This story focuses on heroine Mary Deerfield, the second wife of a miller, Thomas Deerfield, a wealthy but brutish man given to violent drunken rages whereby he beats his wife, and, on one occasion, stabs her through the hand with a fork. Despite her wealthy and prominent family's attempt to find a better life in the New World, Mary ends up on the receiving end of the worst sort of life in the highly patriarchal culture of the Puritans, who were considered dangerous fanatics in England. Mary's experiences likely mirrored those of many women of the period, when judges disbelieved accounts of husbands' cruelty and ordered the domestic abuse victims to return to them. In this case, as was likely often the case, Mary continued to be brutalized, to an even greater degree. Anthropologically, it is often this sense of powerlessness which serves as the impetus for women to turn to "witchcraft," or various folk magic traditions, in an attempt to exert some external control over their lives, which were usually controlled solely by the men surrounding them: their fathers, then husbands, then often sons or other male relatives, should they end up widows.

Mary is likely inspired by the actual Anne Hibbons/Hibbins, the sister of a governor and the widow of a wealthy merchant. She, too, was described as an intelligent, confident and "opinionated" woman, but she was also considered something of a gossip. In the wake of a dispute with contractors, whom she successfully pursued in court, Anne was reported to the church by her neighbors, who, seizing their opportunity, then accused her of being a witch, more than anything else for the purpose of getting rid of her. She was "tried" by a "jury," and was condemned to death. Unlike in this story, the verdict was set aside, but unfortunately, she did not escape a second time, and was yet again condemned, then hanged in June, 1656, at Boston Neck, the home of the fictional character Constance, who may also have been somewhat influenced by her. Regarding Anne's plight, it was widely reported that she had been hanged simply for "having more wit than her neighbors." Another real-life victim, Margaret Jones, was actually the first reported woman hanged as a witch in Boston, in 1648, for the terrible crime of preparing herbal remedies and treating the sick. Any power a woman might wield had to be quickly squelched, lest others follow her example and attempt to exert any freedom of thought, expression or independence.

Overall, the novel is a fairly rich and accurate portrayal of the various figures who populated the Puritan colonies of the New World. Some were kind and genuinely devoted to their religion and community, but many were superstitious, ignorant (fear of FORKS?), and, despite their pretense of piety, hypocritically vengeful and duplicitous, especially when it came to taking revenge on their neighbors. Sadly, in the case of women, that rarely required much more than an accusation of witchcraft or adultery. The novel is slow in parts, but it is a capable mystery novel with a rather surprise ending I won't reveal here. It's also an accessible read if you're interested in this period of history, tragic though it may be.


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