Friday, May 8, 2009

The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe

Title: The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane
Author: Katherine Howe
Publisher: Voice
Publication Date: June 9, 2009
Format: Hardcover, 384 pages
Age Group: Adult

I received this advance reading copy from the Barnes and Noble First Look Book Club.

Connie Goodwin should be doing research for her doctoral dissertation. However, her mother insists that she help prepare her grandmother's abandoned home for sale. Spending the summer near Salem in her grandmother's house, Connie uncovers family secrets that could forever change the way the Salem witch trials are viewed. What if witchcraft were real and actually practiced by some of the women accused of being witches?

Katherine Howe has taken a simply asked question, "What if witchcraft was truly practiced at the time of the Salem witch trials?," and created an entire novel around it. In The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane the modern world is artfully alternated with the history of Connie's family. Connie pushes herself to uncover primary source material for her dissertation while also attempting to understand what is happening to her within her grandmother's house. She is experiencing things that are out of the ordinary and doesn't know where to turn for understanding. Although Connie does not understand some of the things that she is uncovering, Howe has given her strength to continue searching for answers, especially when the situation seems so far out of her control.

I found The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane to be an engaging novel. I was interested to see how the present would eventually tie in with Connie's discoveries of the past. The chapters and interludes were clearly labeled which establishes a definite timeline for all of the action. The relationships between the characters were believable and realistic. Howe uses variations on spelling appropriate to both the time period and the accent of the person who is speaking. While at times this made reading some of the conversations difficult, it did serve a specific purpose in the book.

Overall, I greatly enjoyed reading The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane. It is a strong novel, touching on the Salem witch trials in a new light. 

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  1. I got this through B&N's First Look as well. I enjoyed it but thought Connie could be a little dense at times. I liked the twist that her ancestors were really witches. Most books I read about the Salem witch trials are innocent and you are reading about the effects on their lives.

  2. I'm not sure I would consider Connie dense as much as in denial. I think she definitely had the feeling that there was something unusual going on with the things that happen to her and as she delves into her family history but she doesn't put the pieces together because she doesn't want to believe it.

  3. Heard so much about this book, enjoyed your review.

    thanks for mentioning Royal Reviews over at J.Kaye's book blog

  4. Thanks for an interesting review. I'm curious if you think this would appeal to 8th graders (up to age 14).

    I'm a librarian at a k-8 library, and curious whether we should add it to our collection.

  5. Hi Mary Ann,

    I think this would be too difficult for 8th graders. The main character is a graduate student and her level of research and the vocabulary used in the book definitely reflect this. There were times that I wanted to have a dictionary handy as I was reading.

    I know I read some pretty adult books when I was in 8th grade but I think this one would have been a bit beyond me.

    I hope that helps.

  6. thanks, Angela, for your thoughts.


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