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The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe

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Posts: 1462
Joined: August 2008
Interest in HF: I love history, but it's boring in school. Historical fiction brings it alive for me.
Preferred HF: Iron-Age Britain, Roman Britain, Medieval Britain
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The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe

Post by Rowan » Mon November 25th, 2013, 6:04 pm

Harvard graduate student Connie Goodwin needs to spend her summer doing research for her doctoral dissertation. But when her mother asks her to handle the sale of Connie’s grandmother’s abandoned home near Salem, she can’t refuse. As she is drawn deeper into the mysteries of the family house, Connie discovers an ancient key within a seventeenth-century Bible. The key contains a yellowing fragment of parchment with a name written upon it: Deliverance Dane. This discovery launches Connie on a quest—to find out who this woman was and to unearth a rare artifact of singular power: a physick book, its pages a secret repository for lost knowledge.

As the pieces of Deliverance’s harrowing story begin to fall into place, Connie is haunted by visions of the long-ago witch trials, and she begins to fear that she is more tied to Salem’s dark past then she could have ever imagined.


This is one of the books required to read for the MOOC I enrolled in. Of course only a small portion was required for the class, but I couldn't stop myself. lol

I have never read anything about the Salem Witch trial nor has this been a topic of much interest to me. I did enjoy this book and thought the past and present were neatly woven together in not quite alternating chapters.

While there wasn't a real Deliverance Dane, Howe neatly inserts her into history as the only one of the women with any real ability. I skimmed through the article on Wikipedia about the trials and there was a Deliverance Hobbs who was questioned and confessed and offered names of accomplices.

It's also interesting that the author Katherine Howe is a decendant of both Elizabeth Proctor and Elizabeth Howe, two of the real women who were on trial in Salem.

I think the part I enjoyed most was how the author conveyed the difficulties of researching the past, looking for something specific and having it called by different names and even different spellings from modern spelling. In the story, the book in question is called a receipt book, a recipe book, a book of shadows, as well as a few other terms in addition to the physic book of the title.

If you've never read any historical fiction about the Salem Witch Trials, this one is a nice introductory kind of book. Infused with some history, but the whole story isn't set in the late 17th century.

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