Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane ~ Katherine Howe

The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane
June 9, 2009
384 Pages

The Physick Book of Delieverance Dane begins with main character Connie Goodwin stessing over the oral exam that will determine whether she will be allowed to continue on as a student for her doctorate. Connie is a historian and the book is about witchcraft and witches (and Connie) so it's not much of a surpirse that this is the first time the subject is broached. But it is done well and doesn't stick out, either, it blends in with the questioning.

With chapters alternating between the late seventeenth/early eighteenth centuries and the summer of 1991, The Physick Book, tells both Deliverance Dane and Connie's story--that of the Salem witches and a modern day historian trying to uncover one of their untold tales.

It's obvious-or at least apparent-that the author herself is a PhD candidate (in American and New England studies), though. Most of the time that is good: the descriptions of the people and times of the 'ancient' chapters were great and all the little details and knowledge of academia and what Connie would encounter in her research did a pot to make the book more enjoyable and realistic. There were a few times, however, that it seemed like there was a little too much...school thrown in? I'm not really sure how to explain it.

The story is kept from being dull by, well, the story. As Connie is on her quest, she's also cleaning up her grandmother's abandoned house for her hippie-ish mother and interacting with some fun secondary characters; it's not just 'research. 1692. research. 1692. repeat'. The tale moves along as well as, or better, than most other books that are not at all informational or historical in the slightest.

The two things I would say detracted from me really, really loving the novel were the author's need to write out accents/dialects (When people had Bostonian accents, they were spelled out- heah instead of here-for entire sentences. The same was true for some of the 16/1700s characters.) While I do think that would be fun for the audio book-which is also available today-most of the time it was just distracting in the print book. Kate Chopin wrote the same way in a few of her stories and it might be that I just have a problem reading things spelled phonetically, but for ways different that I pronounce them. (Some of the writing done from the 16/1700s was spelled...differently and that I was okay with, mostly.)

The only other reason I'm taking any 'points' down is because I wasn't terribly connected to the characters. I know a lot of it was a plot book, but there were still a lot of characters that if part of the story had been they'd jumped off a bridge, I wouldn't have been terribly sad (except for the lack of it making sense). That's not to say there were any of them I didn't like, I just didn't particularly care about them either.

Still, 8/10 because it really is a very enjoyable book and you learn a lot about the Salem witch trials in a very entertaining way :)

Recommended to: fans of Charmed or if you liked Season of the Witch by Natasha Mostert (the subject is actually very different-despite the title-but the writing or something seems complimentary.)
Thank you to Pamela at Voice for this book.
(and this is maybe the coolest looking arc I've received or seen--there's a flap continued over from the back of the book that folds to the front and covers the pages so that the side of the book looks like the pages of an old, worn book-ie matches the cover. It's tricky for me to explain but fun.)

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