Friday, March 11, 2016

Of Witches, Salem, and Hysteria: Beyond the Movie Witch

Recommendations by Christy H.

In the new horror film “The Witch” a family is cast out of their Puritan village for somewhat hazy, although most definitely religious, reasons. William and Katherine decide to build their own homestead right at the edge of the untamed New England wilderness. However, they and their five children soon learn that there is something unnatural lurking in the woods. And while that something is dangerous so is the fear and paranoia slowly growing within their own family.

After seeing this, I went on a book-adding frenzy for my to-read list – anything relating to Puritans or witches. Here are a few that I’m looking forward to reading (and a recommendation I’ve already read.)


The Minister’s Daughter by Julie Hearn
Nell is a healer, herb gatherer, and midwife.
Grace is a minister’s daughter: refined, sweet, and innocent.
These two women could not be more different, and when Grace and her younger sister start pitching fits and speaking in tongues suspicious eyes look to Nell.

The Heretic’s Daughter by Kathleen Kent
Martha and Sarah Carrier are like most any mother and daughter. They love each other but they are often at odds with each other as well. Sarah stands by her mother, however, when Martha is accused of witchcraft in Salem, Massachusetts.

Susannah Morrow by Megan Chance
Fifteen year old Charity is trying to cope with her first young heartbreak which isn’t easy to do when there is no one to turn to for comfort. Charity‘s mother died in childbirth and her stoic Puritan father has been withdrawn ever since.  A small hope comes in the form of her aunt Susannah Morrow who has arrived from London.
But independent Susannah struggles in the strict community. Suspicion towards her begins to grow and soon “the fanaticism, repressed emotions and sexual guilt in Salem explode into a form of hysteria that will make its name infamous.”

The Fever by Megan Abbott
            This book isn’t about Puritans, and it’s not set in the past. It’s not even really about witches. But the comparisons are easy to see.
            When Deenie’s best friend seizes up in class in what can only be described as “a fit” rumors fly faster than Deenie can keep up. Soon girls are having fits left and right and no one can explain why. As hysteria and suspicion grow, Deenie struggles to understand what is happening.

Six Women of Salem: the Untold Story of the Accused and Their Accusers in the Salem Witch Trials by Marilynne K. Roach
            Most people know the story of the Salem Witch Trials. Many even know prominent names of some of those involved. But Roach zeroes in on six specific women in an effort to transform trivia tidbits into real, three dimensional human beings. 

A Delusion of Satan: the Full Story of the Salem Witch Trials by Francis Hill
            Called a “grisly read and an engrossing one”, Hill details the Salem Witch Trials from the spiteful accusers who seek vengeance to a four year old “witch” who was chained to a wall.

American Jezebel: the Uncommon Life of Ann Hutchinson, the Woman Who Defied the Puritans by Eva LaPlante
            Although not specifically about witches, Ann Hutchinson was certainly called that - among other pejorative terms like “instrument of Satan” and “Jezebel.” Her only crimes seemed to be hosting a weekly religious study group (of sorts) in her home and expressing discontent with local ministers, or as someone more directly put it: “[being] more bold than a man.” Tried and banished from her own community, Hutchinson made an everlasting impression in women’s history.

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