Friday, January 18, 2013

The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe

A spellbinding, beautifully written novel that moves between contemporary times and one of the most fascinating and disturbing periods in American history – the Salem witch trials.
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.
Written with astonishing conviction and grace, The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane travels seamlessly between the witch trials in the 1690s and a modern woman’s story of mystery, intrigue and revelation

The Physick Book of Deliverace Dane had me at "Salem," I am obsessed with anything having to do with the Salem Witch trials, fact or fiction.  I also have a tendency to gravitate towards books with past and present story lines.  So it looked like this book would have it all for me.  But try as I might, hope as I read, it just didn't do it for me.
The book opens with a Prologue that is very intriguing!  So don't skip the Prologue.  I did have some trouble with the words, they were spelled the way they were back in the 1600's.  The historical section is brief and then we are in the early 90's.  Most of the historical sections are very short and I found myself constantly wanting more of the past story line, most likely that is because historical fiction is my true love. 
 Connie, who you can learn more about by visiting her Facebook page (click the link in the book description) is reluctant to really be a part of any of her family dealings, especially the house her mother grew up in which has been abandoned for years.  But she does what every dutiful daughter would and goes to clean it out so they can sell it.  I find it kind of fun that the author took the time to set up a Facebook page for her character even though FB didn't exist in 1991.
Connie discovers much about her family's past and how the women used their knowledge of herbs to help others.
Cunningham's Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs by Scott Cunningham
But then towards the end of the book things take a drastic turn from the herbal witchcraft to a more paranormal, mystical witchcraft.  Don't get me wrong I like paranormal a lot but I wish the author had stuck with one or the other. 
The other fault I had with the book was that there were a few too convenient things.  After all Connie's discoveries are from 300 years in the past but yet people in her life are connected.  I would love to see an author have the characters struggle to solve the issues a bit more or maybe I've just been reading too many books recently that have convenient solutions to big problems. 
Katherine Howes writing is good, her descriptions are great and if I received news that her other book was good I would read it.  After all my issues with Deliverance Dane are minor and I think I just expected more. 
 Sometimes expectations can kill a reader.
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please come join us, and check out the other reads.


Carol said...

Thanks for sharing your comments about this book. I will probably add it to my reading list, even though "witchcraft" and the Salem witch trials kind of creep me out -- sad but true.

Jenny said...

I read "The Heretic's Daughter" a few months ago and liked it. It's not great, but if you have some basic knowledge of the events and people involved in the Salem trials, you would probably at least appreciate it. It is narrated from the POV of an accused woman's daughter and goes into great (and sad) detail about what happened to the families and children of these innocent women.

Ricki Jill Treleaven said...

Aw! This is one of my all-time favorite books.....I really loved it. I can remember being in graduate school at the same time Connie was there....when we still had to rely on the card catalog system.....and I loved Arlo and that the witches in this book have dogs as familiars rather than cats. ;P

I alos love that her boyfriend was an ivy-league-educated steeplejack.

I'm so, so sorry you were disappointed because I would have been the first to have highly recommended it. I also liked The House of Velvet and Glass, but you know that it is sad due to the Titanic subplot, but there is also some amazing history in it, and it's a true historical. You might like it more than The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane.

Thanks so much for linking up!!!


Sea Witch said...

Just finished reading this last week and just loved it. I to, adore, anything Salem. Sea Witch