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Sunday, October 19, 2014

The Penguin Book of Witches edited by Katherine Howe

I usually don't read many non-fiction books but because the subject of this book was too interesting to pass up, I had to give it a try. THE PENGUIN BOOK OF WITCHES is exactly that, a book about witches. Overall, it summarizes the events of witches trials, mostly the ones that that were held in New England and Salem throughout the 17th century. It also provides us with an idea on how people were superstitious and were easily deceived by mass hysteria which lead to the eventual death of many innocent people accused of witchcraft. The involvement of the Puritan Church was emphasized which could lead to many intense discussion about the separation of church and state.

The editor of the book, Katherine Howe recounts the history of witches through historical accounts like interrogations, warrants and summaries of trials. It also includes excerpts of scholarly works that discuss witches and witchery. I found everything quite fascinating but sometimes very difficult to read. In some of the earlier excerpts, the language and writing was not only difficult to read but almost impossible to understand if reading lightly. I found myself re-reading many paragraph because I couldn't quite understand what I had just read. I was really glad for the end notes that helped clarify the language. I also really appreciated the editor's summary at the beginning of each new case or section. These summaries allowed me to understand the situation before reading a trial or an interrogation.

I really enjoyed reading about the witch trials and the blinded accusations, however, I also appreciated the insight on what happened after this dark time in American history. The shift in the way people thought about witches and witchcraft is still a little bit confusing for this reader because to go from condemning many to hang because of witchcraft and then viewing witches as simple charlatans, is quite extraordinary.

People have long been fascinated by witches. Still witches are portrayed in fiction and movies, and the number of children dressed up as witches on Halloween night is amazing. An overview on the witch trials and the way people thought about witches was really interesting. However, I wouldn't say this was a riveting read. On the contrary, it took me quite some time to read it. I read it in little batches, because reading it all at once would have been too arduous.

This book will be appreciated by historians, history geeks or anyone interested in witches. THE PENGUIN BOOK OF WITCHES shouldn't be read as entertainment. It's purely educational and factual. You can tell the editor took a lot of time to research her book and I really appreciate the work she has done. Personally, I would be really interested in a similar book about werewolves. Whether there would be enough material to fill a book, I'm not sure, but it would certainly be an interesting subject.

Tynga is a 32 years old mom of two, from Montreal, working as a lab technician in an hospital specialized in heart disease. In her free time, she enjoys reading all things Paranormal and photography.

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1 Person left their mark:

  1. Thanks for the review Stéphanie. I don't think it is for me, even though I love books with witches.