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The Last Witchfinder by James Morrow

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fljustice
Bibliophile
Location: Brooklyn, NY
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The Last Witchfinder by James Morrow

Postby fljustice » Thu September 9th, 2010, 6:14 pm

I reviewed this at Bookcrossing.com after I read it and thought I'd share my review here:

From the back:

"Jennet Stearn's father hangs witches for a living in Restoration England. But when she witnesses the unjust and horrifying execution of her beloved aunt Isabel, the precocious child decides to make it her life's mission to bring down the Parliamentary Witchcraft Act. Armed with little save the power of reason, and determined to see justice prevail, Jennet hurls herself into a series of picaresque adventures--traveling from King William's Britain to the fledgling American Colonies to an uncharted island in the Caribbean, braving West Indies pirates, Algonquin Indian captors, the machinations of the Salem Witch Court, and the sensuous love of a young Ben Franklin. For Jennet cannot and must not rest until she had put the last witchfinder out of business."

My review:

This is not your ordinary historical fiction. James Morrow uses the story of Jennet Stearne to explore the the clash of Reason and Revelation whose battles are still going on in our own times. Jennet is an appealing character whose single-minded devotion to eliminating witchfinding causes her pain and gives her power. I particularly liked the device of using a book's "voice" (Newton's Principia Mathematica) to introduce and comment on the story. Morrow writes with confidence and elegance. Highly recommend this book.
Faith L. Justice, Author Website
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annis
Bibliomaniac

Postby annis » Thu September 9th, 2010, 7:31 pm

I agree, Faith- it's an excellent book and timely. I highly recommend Carl Sagan's non-fiction book The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark as a companion study of the history of our susceptibility to superstition. It'a also a reminder to look behind the scenes for the reasons why superstitious belief is encouraged at particular times - there are often major political and financial forces at play. The witchhunters of medieval Germany and 17th century England and America for example, were running a rort whereby they quite cynically made a fortune from other people's fear and misery.

Not liking to get too much into politics, but the same thing can be seen today in the way big business corporates encourage attacks on scientists, especially in relation to climate-change where changes in policy might (God forbid) reduce their profits.

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fljustice
Bibliophile
Location: Brooklyn, NY
Contact:

Postby fljustice » Fri September 10th, 2010, 4:49 pm

Thanks, Annis. I'll have to look up The Demon-Haunted World. I love Carl Sagan's books. James Morrow is one of my favorite authors, as well. He's better known in the SF/F community, but should be attracting the same audience as Twain and Vonnegut. I had the opportunity to interview him several years ago, before The Last Witchfinder came out, and he's brilliant. I used bits for several articles, but the entire interview is available on my website (interview shortcuts are in the right column), if you're interested.
Faith L. Justice, Author Website

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Vanessa
Bibliomaniac
Currently reading: The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell & And So It Begins by Rachel Abbott (Pigeonhole)
Interest in HF: The first historical novel I read was Katherine by Anya Seton and this sparked off my interest in this genre.
Favorite HF book: Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell!
Preferred HF: Any
Location: North Yorkshire, UK

Postby Vanessa » Fri September 10th, 2010, 5:20 pm

Thanks for that review, Faith. I have this book on my TBR pile, so it's very encouraging!
currently reading: My Books on Goodreads

Books are mirrors, you only see in them what you already have inside you ~ The Shadow of the Wind

annis
Bibliomaniac

Postby annis » Fri September 10th, 2010, 6:36 pm

Excellent interview, Faith- thanks for the link. We need authors who explore the fundamentals of our moral/philosophical and religious beliefs and make us stop and think as well as entertain us. This has always been a central role for writers of sci-fi, who are often working right on the edge. I was intrigued by JM's use of the Gilgamesh myth cycle as a reference, too. Although I'd read a lot of Greek/Roman/Norse legends as a kid, I hadn't encountered the Sumerian Gilgamesh until I read Robert Silverberg's novel Gilgamesh the King back in the '80s. In my opinion fantasy and historical fiction often result in interesting crossovers.


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