Reader, Writer, Merciless Reviewer and Incurable Romantic
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Disclosure: I borrowed this book from my local public library. I do not know the author nor have I had any communication with her about this book or any other matter. I am an author of historical romance, contemporary gothic romance, and various non-fiction.
I read Marion Starkey's The Devil in Massachusetts a couple of years ago, so I was curious to see if this newer examination of the Salem witch phenomenon shed a different light. So far, it hasn't. But I'm not done.
This book is surprisingly difficult to read. Schiff has taken the extensive records of the investigations and trials, as well as documentation left by various participants and she has reconstructed the day-by-day events as if they really happened. There's no distinction between observable facts and the visions or claims -- or outright lies -- reported at the time. If Samuel Sewall recorded in his transcript of a hearing that Ann Putnam saw Rebecca Nurse sitting in the rafters of the meetinghouse, Schiff doesn't explain that Putnam claimed to see a spectral version of Nurse in the rafters while the living breathing human being Rebecca Nurse stood in the flesh before the company on the floor of the building. While this may have been the experience of those in Salem village in 1692, I would have preferred a clearer description from the perspective of 2019.
After about 200 pages, the details of the various accusations became repetitious.