Thursday, May 21, 2009

And Now Just In Time for Summer--Witches!

For my first review of the summer reading season, I chose the much hyped "Physick Book of Deliverance Dane".  This book is seriously everywhere--People, Real Simple, Entertainment Weekly--not to mention it was an advance read for both Barnes and Noble and Amazon's Vine Program.  I don't know about all the hype.  While the book was enjoyable, it is a bit heavy for a real summer page turner.  Check out my review below and see what you think.

"The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane" follows Connie, a PhD candidate in history at Harvard as she spends a summer trying to clean out her grandmother's old abandoned house in Marblehead MA. Soon after arriving at the house, Connie finds a key with the strange name of "Deliverance Dane" attached. Strange things start happening to Connie as she searches for facts about Deliverance, who Connie coincidentally thinks might make a good subject for her dissertation in American Colonial History. After a whole bunch of twists and turns, Connie discovers her family's long hidden secret, and knows she must embrace it to save the ones she loves. 

I like the premise of "Deliverance Dane" and I think Katherine Howe's experience as a historian makes her a vivid storyteller, particularly in the sections of the book set in the 17th and 18th centuries. The scenes with Deliverance and her daughter Mercy, in particular, were excellent, and I felt like I could almost smell the fire smoke in their cramped cottage. Howe has an interesting take--what if witches were real--of this often over analyzed period in American history. 

The downfall of this book, however, was the storyline set in the present day. The story with Connie, while strong at points, felt a bit contrived, and the book definitely took a hard turn towards fantasy in its last 100 pages. This isn't exactly what I was expecting in a book where the main character is a historian, and I probably could have gone with it if the story had not gotten so wild at the end. There were certainly some charming elements, and the threads of a good story, but I think the book needed more detail in parts to really flesh it out and make it feel more complete. 

I am interested to read other works by Katherine Howe, especially her historical work since she did such a great job portraying historical scenes. I would recommend this book to you if you want a quick summer read and you don't mind the fantastical.

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