April 30, 2021

Hour Of The Witch

Hour Of The Witch

by Chris Bohjalian

Publishing May 4, 2021
by Doubleday Books

Rating: 5 Stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Genre: Historical Fiction

From The Publisher:

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 into the back of Mary’s hand, she resolves that she must divorce him to save her life. But in a world where every neighbor is watching for signs of the devil, a woman like Mary–a woman who harbors secret desires and finds it difficult to tolerate the brazen hypocrisy of so many men in the colony–soon finds herself the object of suspicion and rumor. When tainted objects are discovered buried in Mary’s garden, when a boy she has treated with herbs and simples dies, and when their servant girl runs screaming in fright from her home, Mary must fight to not only escape her marriage, but also the gallows. A twisting, tightly plotted thriller from one of our greatest storytellers, Hour of the Witch is a timely and terrifying novel of socially sanctioned brutality and the original American witch hunt. 

My Thoughts:

He Said, She Said: 17th-Century Style!

Chris Bohjalian has done it again, with another immersive spell-binding (no pun intended) story. This time the setting is 1662-63 in Boston, which is under Puritan rule. Bohjalian uses archaic, formal dialog to set the tone of his story, and it only took me a short while to get used to it all (“dost”, “thou”, “prithee” and so forth). The main character, Mary Deerfield, is a complex person, dealing with an abusive older husband (especially when he’s “drink-drunk”) and struggling to keep her faith, despite her remaining childless. I found the colonial legal proceedings very interesting, and grew very frustrated with the magistrates (all of whom, of course, were men), even while realizing that they were people of their times. Truly this was not a good time or place to be a woman! At its heart, the divorce proceedings were a colonial era example of “he said, she said” since there were no witnesses to the husband’s cruelty. 

Bohjalian paints a wonderful picture of the everyday lives of the early colonists in Boston, the food they ate and the clothing they wore, the prevalence of indentured servants, and the social structures (and strictures), without taking away from the very absorbing narrative. Highly recommended!

Thank you to NetGalley and Doubleday Books for the opportunity to read an advance readers copy of this book. All opinions are my own.

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