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The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane
by Katherine Howe
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Having previously read Katherine's sequel to this book, "The Daughter of Temperance Hobbs", this story filled in the missing blanks, its format identical to the second one. Toggling back and forth between the present and days of Salem witches, the characters interact well, her mother Grace living in NM instead of locally. The reader is introduced to Connie Goodwin as a grad student instead of professor, along with how she 'stumbles' into her grandmother's past. I had hoped for something more powerful and felt somewhat disappointed. Researching witchcraft and its physick treatments is one thing; building suspense and momentum is another. This is where the story falls flat due to its meandering pace and failure to completely engage. Regardless, it was enjoyable and wraps up any further interest in 'witch stories'. ( )
I don't know why I didn't read this sooner! Loved it...the play between time periods and the interconnected feeling, the wisdom, the magic, and especially the skill that Howe displayed in giving voices to those whose voice had been silenced by hysteria too soon. Regular everyday magic.
Slow start, but enjoyable read. Appreciate the accuracy of the historical chapters.
This was an excellent book. It had the perfect blend of history and suspense and it was nice getting to live vicariously through Connie for a while. This story brought back memories of my own family.
The upside to buying a book on impulse that you later find out from your BL friends is at best an average read: your expectations are set accordingly.
The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane was an impulse buy at a FOTL sale based on the oh-so-fabulous cover and an ultra-quick scan of the book flap. A story about a modern day Harvard Ph.D. candidate finding out about her witchy roots while cleaning out her grandmother's house. How could this be a bad story?
Well, it's not, but it's not a great story either. It held my attention in a rather detached way and the author did a credible job pulling me into Salem during the late 1600's for the flashback chapters. The cover quote refers to this book as a "gripping supernatural puzzler". I'm not sure what Matthew Pearl was reading but I don't think it was this book. It wasn't gripping at all, although as I said, it's not a bad story.
Each chapter head has a time frame on it - "Late June, 1991" or "Early August, 1991" but I think my biggest complaint about the story overall is I never got any sense of time passing from the story - the writing is very, very vague in terms of events moving towards their inevitable conclusion. The narrative really ended up feeling like just a listing of events; if not for the chapter headings I wouldn't have known if this story takes place over 4-5 months or 4-5 years.
I'm not sorry I read it and I never felt like throwing the book across the room, but really it's an average story encased in an extraordinary jacket.
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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Wikipedia in English (3)
"Harvard graduate student Connie Goodwin needs to spend her summer doing research for her doctoral dissertation. But when her mother asks her to handle the sale of Connie's grandmother's abandoned home near Salem, she can't refuse. There, Connie discovers an ancient key secreted within a seventeenth-century Bible. The key contains a yellowing fragment of parchment with a name written upon it: Deliverance Dane."--Container.
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Melvil Decimal System (DDC)813.6 — Literature English (North America) American fiction 21st Century
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Hyperion and Voice
2 editions of this book were published by Hyperion and Voice.
Editions: 1401340903, 1401341330