A READER'S OPINION
A well-written and fascinating story of a dark time in history. THE WITCHFINDER'S SISTER by Beth Underdown is a different kind of book for me. I like witch stories, but this one is not typical. It follows the story of Alice Hopkins, a young widow left with child, who returns to Manningtree to stay with her younger brother, Matthew. We spend most of the book in Alice's head with her thoughts. This isn't a style of writing I normally like, but the author has changed my mind in this instance. The characters who mattered to me were well-developed and the ones I didn't care as much about hung in the background like interesting extras ready to make an appearance at a moment's notice.
THE WITCHFINDER'S SISTER tells of the darkness during the 1600s when women were accused of witchcraft and evil doers were determined to hunt them down and destroy them. The history is quite interesting surrounding the real Matthew Hopkins, and I appreciate that the author explained her research and the fictionalized account with an author's note at the end of the book.
The author writes the story a little like a song: The beginning is a gentle easing into Alice's mind and world, then there's a stronger chorus, aka more exciting part of the story, and then it tapers into a haunting melody with a powerful ending. This is one of those books where the reader might not be quite sure what to make of it until they've read it through and looked at the story from Alice's perspective.
This is the first e-book I've read in more than a year, and I caved because I loved the book cover and story premise. It was well worth the read and I'll be pleased to add this book to my personal library.
Content Note: There are some disturbing, perhaps even terrifying, themes since the author didn't turn the subject matter into a lightness we would expect from many witch-like stories. I didn't find it at all disturbing (perhaps a little spooky) but some readers might.
Star Rating: 5 Stars | Content Rating: See note above | Reviewed by: MK McClintock
A thrilling debut novel, a literary historical thriller based on the devastating witch hunts in 1640s England conducted by “Witchfinder General” Matthew Hopkins—for readers of Sarah Waters and Katherine Howe. Before Salem, there was Manningtree. . . . “This summer, my brother Matthew set himself to killing women, but without ever once breaking the law.” Essex, England, 1645. With a heavy heart, Alice Hopkins returns to the small town she grew up in. Widowed, with child, and without prospects, she is forced to find refuge at the house of her younger brother, Matthew. In the five years she has been gone, the boy she knew has become a man of influence and wealth—but more has changed than merely his fortunes. Alice fears that even as the cruel burns of a childhood accident still mark his face, something terrible has scarred Matthew’s soul. There is a new darkness in the town, too—frightened whispers are stirring in the streets, and Alice’s blood runs cold with dread when she discovers that Matthew is a ruthless hunter of suspected witches. Torn between devotion to her brother and horror at what he’s become, Alice is desperate to intervene—and deathly afraid of the consequences. But as Matthew’s reign of terror spreads, Alice must choose between her safety and her soul. Alone and surrounded by suspicious eyes, Alice seeks out the fuel firing her brother’s brutal mission—and is drawn into the Hopkins family’s past. There she finds secrets nested within secrets: and at their heart, the poisonous truth. Only by putting her own life and liberty in peril can she defeat this darkest of evils—before more innocent women are forced to the gallows. Inspired by the real-life story of notorious “Witchfinder General” Matthew Hopkins, Beth Underdown’s thrilling debut novel blends spellbinding history with harrowing storytelling for a truly haunting reading experience.
Print Length: 336 pages
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Publication Date: April 25, 2017
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Format Read: E-Book | Source: Provided by the author or publisher via NetGalley