Katherine Howe’s debut novel is a well-crafted, deeply researched and exceptional work centered around the Salem witch trials of the 1600s and reaching out to the present time. The novel features several real people of history in real situations but extended by imagery and imagination to fill in the blanks. Holding a PhD in American and New England History she has brought these times to life in a very realistic way. She also has the advantage historically of being descended from two of the accused witches so has invested a great deal of effort into this amazing story.
Katherine has taken her university experience and interwoven it into the research that Connie Goodwin, her protagonist, undertakes for her choice of dissertation. An accidental discovery in her grandmother’s home she has been asked to prepare for selling, brings her right into the world of old Salem. The book reads smoothly and consistently while building the tension throughout. The characters grow, and almost come alive as the reader gets more involved in the story. This is an interesting time of American history, referred to in the book as the Salem Panic. In fact, Connie soon finds that the dynamics of what she has discovered has put her in a very delicate and dangerous position with her university advisor.
The fact that she is dealing with two distinct time periods in the same location does not disturb the flow at all. In fact Katherine has called these sections reverting in time as “Interludes”, which means you are not suddenly propelled from one instance to another. There is enough mystique in the book to keep the interest flowing, enough history to really get a feel for the time, enough mystery, a dash of romance, a froth of magic, maybe a bit of vision, a bit of sadness, all continuing to build toward a fascinating ending. Yet through most of the story Connie is considering this a project and that she is detached from the reality. An altogether enjoyable experience, it is my hope that there will be more books to come from Katherine Howe. An wonderful journey bringing the past to the now in an incredibly entertaining manner. Grabbed me and didn’t let go! Definitely recommend, don’t forget to read all the notes beginning and end, very interesting.