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The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane (edition 2009)

by Katherine Howe

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Member:Tbrown33
Title:The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane
Authors:Katherine Howe
Info:Voice (2009), Edition: First Edition, Hardcover, 384 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:***1/2
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The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe

17th century (32) 2009 (43) 2010 (25) academia (21) alchemy (20) ARC (58) Colonial America (25) fantasy (54) fiction (324) Harvard (31) historical (43) historical fiction (257) history (38) magic (82) Massachusetts (65) mystery (83) New England (43) novel (17) own (17) read (33) read in 2009 (25) Salem (147) Salem Witch Trials (123) supernatural (31) to-read (88) unread (21) witch trials (32) witchcraft (148) witches (148) women (19)
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Showing 1-5 of 272 (next | show all)
Set in Cambridge, Salem and Marblehead, Massachusetts this unique story told with a new England accent flashes back and forth between two time periods: during the Salem witch trials in the late 1600’s and the summer of 1991. This book is definitely a work of fantasy.

The general outline follows several sets of mothers and daughters, their relationships and how they differ. At the heart is the witch hunt where the good folks of Salem thought they were hunting real witches that were putting the entire community in actual danger through malicious magic.

The protagonist is Connie Goodwin a Harvard student working on her PhD, her dissertation topic brings her on a quest to find an old tome, a book of witchcraft. While cleaning her deceased grandmother’s house Connie discovers a key in an old family Bible and the name of Deliverance Dane the author of a book of remedies and spell….hence history comes to life where many scenes cite historical figures involved in the Salem witch trials and vividly portrayed the women accused of practicing witchcraft and what they went through. We also have a romantic sub-plot and lots of supernatural phenomena…… lots of hocus-pocus, lots of abracadabra, lots of smoke and mirrors and puff inevitably visions…. Really?

This book may captivate some minds but definitely will not please everyone. Some may say it is richly written and that the author has immense descriptive abilities, surely true but it missed the target in many ways. Reading this tale felt like molasses: thick, too slow to come and left a terrible after taste (boring and beyond silliness). I was expecting more depth and historical data but I found a totally uninteresting version of one of the most notorious cases of mass hysteria in the early modern period.

Even the characters were under developed, the protagonist for example was simply too dumb for a PhD student in Colonial History, her ignorance was mind boggling. This book left me totally flat and I am surprised I haven’t ditched it before the ending… yes I made it to the last page this was the best part of the whole experience….glad it ended and I could move on. This is the way I see it…. ( )
  Tigerpaw70 | Apr 5, 2014 |
As a history major, I love a historical mystery. The research, digging through old files, card catalogues and archives. So the setup of the story in old towne Salem was great. While most of the book does focus on Connie Goodwin in the present, the author moves between her, Deliverance Dane and Deliverance's descendants and Howe does this successfully. However, Deliverance Dane was the single most well-written character in the book and I only wish more attention had been paid to her. For the author never explains how Deliverance either obtained or discovered her "craft" in the first place. Connie herself is not a bad character, but she wasn't a great heroine. I did appreciate though all the stress and hard work that Connie goes through to find out who Deliverance Dane was, what was she like, and how did she become involved in the Salem Witch Trials.

It was towards the middle of the book that the story started to take a bit of a down turn. Forced romantic sub-plot, I guess to make Connie more relatable? It was hasty, predictable, some other reviewers have said unbelievable and I kind of agree. It really put a halt to the suspense of the narrative. Deliverance's side of the story also had a better villain. Nothing is more terrifying and shocking than having your neighbors accuse you of witchcraft. Meanwhile Connie's "villain" was pretty lame in comparison. Laughably theatrical and cliched. I admit, I might not have liked the book as much as I did if it weren't for Deliverance and her daughter Mercy. The emotional and religious turmoil of 17th c. Salem is what really saved the book. ( )
  asukamaxwell | Jan 23, 2014 |
I guess the only truly cool thing about this book is that the author is the descendant of 2 accused witches during the 1600's Salem witch trial - Elizabeth Howe and Elizabeth Proctor (who survived the trial). Without my love for witch lore, I would have put this book down long ago, because the ideas were just too similar to everything I've seen before. Powerful witch women affecting their beloved men into some sort of death or accident? Yup, saw that in Practical Magic. Not to mention the cliched characters who were there, but not really. Liz, her best friend, exists in the story merely to provide background information on Latin roots. And Sam, her love interest, exists for romantic tension, for slight amounts of swoony dialogue, and as a part of the plot itself. But the relationship between the main character - Connie, and this Sam, is not well- developed and therefore not very believable.

Katherine Howe's knowledge of the time period shines here. But because the details paralleled her own life: girl with a dog researching witch lore, it almost felt like this was the fictionalized imagining of her world, if magic really were real, and an evil wannabe sorcerer really did exist. Which I can't really knock, because of course fiction is based on, influenced, motivated from real life experiences. In this case, it just didn't jive with me. The story wasn't original, and it never made me laugh.

Closing the book, I experienced a lukewarm feeling. The book wasn't bad enough to stop reading altogether, but I sort of wish that I had. ( )
1 vote javagg | Jan 22, 2014 |
A wonderful read thru a single family's past and connection to the Salem Witch Trials! ( )
  JEB5 | Oct 30, 2013 |
Maybe it was the fact that I read this fairly soon after reading the (IMHO) ho-hum Discovery of Witches, but I also found this novel to be sort of meh. Maybe I’m discovering that witches just don’t do it for me. Sadly, American history in general isn’t my favorite, so that’s probably it as well. Also, maybe I’m getting tired of bookish people finding magical books in libraries. It seems to be a theme in a lot of the books I’ve read lately.

The novel wasn’t bad, per se, but I found it to be a little predictable, and there wasn’t enough to surprise me and keep me really engaged. I liked the main character quite a bit, but the other cast of characters felt contrived, especially the villain (in the movie, he would be played by Montgomery Burns). The history was definitely interesting, and I liked how she interspersed her main story with bits from the 17th and 18th centuries — I did feel like I was learning something in the process. But her writing was a little dry and mechanical, and it made it hard for me to believe the relationships in the book.
So yeah. Meh.

Then again, I found a lot of positive reviews praising it for being a great, light summer read. So it may, in fact, be something you might enjoy!

Read my full review here: http://letseatgrandpa.com/2013/06/04/physick_book_of_deliverance_dane/ ( )
  letseatgrandpa | Oct 8, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 272 (next | show all)
I absolutely love the setup of having someone in the present investigating a story from the past, with the action moving between the two periods, but so very few authors do it well and get the balance right. Howe is one of those few. The action takes place mostly in the present, with the sparse sections set at the times of Deliverance and her descendents exactly enough to enrich the investigation and mirror and illustrate some of the developments in Connie's story.

I also loved that Connie had to do proper detective work to uncover what had gone on in Deliverance's time. The last few books I read with this setup ...had the present-day protagonist just stumbling on stuff, and then doing nothing more strenuous than reading a diary. Connie isn't so lucky. She has to follow up on all sorts of sources, and since the book is set in 1991, this doesn't mean just going online and running a few searches. She needs to actually visit a variety of places and consult a whole lot of potential documents, from church archives to probate records, and when she does find something, she needs to interpret and decode what ambiguous records might mean and imply. ...

Something I really ended up liking, though were the relationships in the book. There are a few false steps in the characterisations at the beginning, with people sounding a bit off... Howe soon hits her stride, and things feel much more natural. I liked Connie and Sam's romance, but I think my favourite was the way Howe develops the concept of mother-daughter relationships
 
"The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane" is smart, and Howe's research translates into a vividly imagined narrative. The social forces driving Deliverance's life come alive, as do the realities of the not so distant pre-Internet and cellphone realities of Connie's world. The novel is a page-turner, but the characters, not the plot, dominate... The novel's weakness lies in the final pages, which beg credulity. That flaw shouldn't be a deal-killer. "The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane," up to that point, not only goes down smoothly but raises questions about society, and what might be taken for magic, that linger after the final page is turned.
 
“The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane” does indeed perform a work of magic. Through a type of literary alchemy the current interest in novels tied to the Salem witch trial (“The Heretic’s Daughter” by Kathleen Kent and “The Lace Reader” by Brunonia Barry are just two examples), commingles with the plot of A.S. Byatt’s “Possession” (in which a graduate student stumbles upon a secret powerful enough to upend recorded history) and produces a new compound – in this case, one powerful enough to deliver a charming summer read.
 
In her provocative debut novel, The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane, Katherine Howe pairs a scholarly search for a missing book with the thrill of spine-tingling witchery.
 
I liked this book very much, but I want to ask the author's editor to please, in the future, keep her from wrapping or folding her characters' arms around their middles. And also point out that Connie's shoulder bag gets dropped on the floor so often it begins to sound like a character itself. But these are minor complaints. And by the end of this book, as any graduate student should, Katherine Howe has filled us in on much more than we used to know about that group of unfortunate women who paid the price of their lives due to a town's irrational fears.
 
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Epigraph
"I watch'd today as Giles Corey was presst to death between the stones. He had lain so for two days mute. With each stone they tolde him he must plead, lest more rocks be added. But he only whisperd, More weight. Standing in the crowde I found Goodwyfe Dane, who, as the last stone lower'd, went white, grippt my hand, and wept."

--Letter fragment dated "Salem Towne, September 16, 1692"
Division of Rare Manuscripts, Boston Athenaeum
Dedication
For my family
First words
Peter Petford slipped a long wooden spoon into the simmering iron pot of lentils hanging over the fire and tried to push the worry from his stomach.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane (U.S.) is also known as The Lost Book of Salem (U.K.)
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Connie Goodwin should be spending her summer doing research for her Ph.D. dissertation in American History. But when her mother asks her to handle the sale of Connie's grandmother's abandoned home near Salem, shes's compelled to help. One day, while exploring the dusty bookshelves in the study, Connie discovers an ancient key, and within the key is a brittle slip of paper with two words written on it: Deliverance Dane. Along with a handsome steeplejack named Sam, Connie begins to research Deliverance Dane. But even as the pieces fall into place, Connie is haunted by visions of long ago, and she fears that she is more tied to Salem's dark past than she could have ever imangined.
Haiku summary
Connie discovers
Key in granny's cottage and
Descent from witches.
(passion4reading)

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While readying her grandmother's abandoned home for sale, Connie Goodwin discovers an ancient key in a seventeenth-century Bible with a scrap of parchment bearing the name Deliverance Dane. In her quest to discover who this woman was and seeking a rare artifact--a physick book--Connie begins to feel haunted by visions of the long-ago witch trials and fears that she may be more tied to Salem's past than she could have imagined.… (more)

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