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The Last Witchfinder (2006)

by James Morrow

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9784816,682 (3.72)66
Jennet Stearne's father hangs witches for a living in Restoration England. But when this precocious child witnesses the horrifying death of her beloved Aunt Isobel, unjustly executed as a sorceress, she makes it her life's mission to bring down the Parliamentary Witchcraft Act. A self-educated "natural philosopher," Jennet is inspired in her quest by a single sentence in a cryptic letter from Isaac Newton: "It so happens that in the Investigations leading first to my Conjectures concerning Light and later to my System of the World, I fell upon a pretty Proof that Wicket Spirits enjoy no essential Existence." Armed with nothing but the power of reason and her memory of Isobel's love, Jennet cannot rest until she has put the last witchfinder out of business.--Publisher description.… (more)
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» See also 66 mentions

English (47)  French (1)  All languages (48)
Showing 1-5 of 47 (next | show all)
Couynot get past the first few pages. Not a book for me. ( )
  tmgukcatfan | Apr 16, 2021 |
This book can only be described as historical fantasy. Morrow uses the horrific history of witch finding from England to America through the character of Jennet Stearne who spends her life trying to come up with a grand argument that would legally undermine witchfinders, the livelihood of her father and brother. Along the way, she is abducted by Algonquin Indians, shipwrecked with Ben Franklin, and accused of witchcraft herself. The narrator is Newton's Principia Mathematica, the text that Jennet used for her argument, and in the interludes, the book describes its battle against the Malleus Maleficarum, the witch hunting handbook. Here's where fantasy really takes over. The writing was rich and evocative, often ironic, and sometimes just fun. ( )
  witchyrichy | Mar 16, 2019 |
Ambitious much? ( )
  thiscatsabroad | Mar 5, 2019 |
A woman's life trying to establish a grand argument to dismiss the legal standing of witch finders. Didn't really grab me. ( )
  brakketh | Dec 30, 2016 |
too dark for me
( )
  Kaethe | Oct 16, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 47 (next | show all)
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Epigraph
If the Judge wishes to find out whether she is endowed with a
witch's power of preserving silence, let him take not whether she
is able to shed tears when standing in his presence, or when being
tortured. For we are taught both by the words of worthy men of
old and by our own experience that this is a most certain sign, and
it has been found that even if she be urged and exhorted by solemn
conjurations to shed tears, if she be a witch she will not be able to
weep: although she will assume a tearful aspect and smear her
cheeks and eyes with spittle to make it appear that she is weeping;
wherefore she must be closely watched by the attendants.

Heinrich Krämer and James Sprenger
Malleus Maleficaru, A.D. 1486
Part III, Question XV (Excerpt)
Then came out of the House a grave, tall Man carrying his Holy
Writ before the supposed Wizard as solemnly as the Sword-bearer
of London before the Lord Mayor; the Wizard was first put in the
Scale, and over him was read a Chapter out of the Books of Moses,
and then the Bible was put in the other Scale, which, being kept
down before, was immediately let go; but, to great Surprise of
the Spectators, Flesh and Bones came down plump, and out-
weighted the good Book by abundance. After the same Manner, the
others were served, and their lumps of Mortality severally were
too heavy for Moses and all the Prophets and Apostles.

Benjamin Franklin
"A Witch-Trial at Mount-Holly"
The Pennsylvania Gazette
October 22, 1730
Dedication
TO THE MEMORY OF
Ann Hyson Smith
First words
Introducing Out Heroine, Jennet Stearne, Whose
Father Hunts Witches, Whose Aunt Seeks Wisdom, and
Whose Soul Desires an Object It Cannot Name


May I speak candidly, fleshling, one rational creature to another, myself a book and you a reader?
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Wikipedia in English (1)

Jennet Stearne's father hangs witches for a living in Restoration England. But when this precocious child witnesses the horrifying death of her beloved Aunt Isobel, unjustly executed as a sorceress, she makes it her life's mission to bring down the Parliamentary Witchcraft Act. A self-educated "natural philosopher," Jennet is inspired in her quest by a single sentence in a cryptic letter from Isaac Newton: "It so happens that in the Investigations leading first to my Conjectures concerning Light and later to my System of the World, I fell upon a pretty Proof that Wicket Spirits enjoy no essential Existence." Armed with nothing but the power of reason and her memory of Isobel's love, Jennet cannot rest until she has put the last witchfinder out of business.--Publisher description.

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Book description
Jennet Stearne's father hangs witches for a living in Restoration England. But when she witnesses the unjust and horrifying execution of her beloved aunt Isobel, the precocious child decides to make it her life's mission to bring down the Parliamentary Witchcraft Act. Armed with little save the power of reason, and determined to see justice prevail, Jennet hurls herself into a series of picaresque adventures—traveling from King William's Britain to the fledgling American Colonies to an uncharted island in the Caribbean, braving West Indies pirates, Algonquin Indian captors, the machinations of the Salem Witch Court, and the sensuous love of a young Ben Franklin. For Jennet cannot and must not rest until she has put the last witchfinder out of business.
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