Book Title: The Witch Finder’s Sister
Author: Beth Underdown
Goodreads Link: Click here
Star Rating: – Good book!
Disclaimer: I received this book free from Netgalley in return for an un-biased review.
What is it about the witch trials of history that is so fascinating? It’s a society we can hardly identify with. We look back, shake our heads and say in a dejected voice “How sad! Good thing that could never happen now. Those people were out of their minds!” I think we’d be surprised to realize we’re not that far removed from the very human emotions that drove them to commit their crimes.
Ms. Underdown’s book is historical fiction based on a true-life self-styled “Witch Finder General” named Matthew Hopkins who is credited with the murder of hundreds of supposed witches in 1640’s England. Not much is known about his real history, so the author sketches out what little we do know about his life and then adds to it with the creation of the narrator, his sister Alice. She is a young woman, newly widowed who definitely has her wits and good sense about her. She does not fall into the general hysteria that is driving the witch hunts. Instead, through her eyes we see the truth about what is behind the situation.
Generally, the women who are targeted with suspicion are women on the fringes of society, and thus the most vulnerable. Poor, widowed, or unmarried women are ripe for the picking. In a society where women rely on men for every basic need in life, how can a lone woman defend herself against a male accuser? The author also focuses on the demonization of the mentally ill and society scapegoating women who are considered impure. Sexual dysfunction and misogyny on the part of the accusers also plays a part. All of this is exacerbated by accusers who stand to profit from the witch being removed from society. With that, greed and revenge can be powerful motivators. The superstitious beliefs that we blame first for the rage fueled mob environment are barely needed.
The book touches on all of these issues, while still providing an interesting mystery. What will happen to Alice? How far can she go in opposing her brother? What will she do if he asks her to be part of his actions against her neighbors? What is spurring him on to such depraved lengths? It’s a good psychological thriller and I found it a quick read. I would definitely recommend it.
Song for this book: Down in the Willow Gardens – The Chieftains, Bon Iver (song perfection for this book!)