Hour of the Witch

“The first time that Mary Deerfield’s husband hit her, she didn’t relate the motion to scything: she was in too much pain and she was too surprised. Her skin stung. It was the second time, half a year later, just before she turned twenty and just after the first anniversary of the day they were married, that she noted that he punched her the way a knowledgeable man would scythe.”

Hour of the Witch
By Chris Bohjalian
Source: Advance review copy

It is never easy to read about the victim of spousal abuse but step back in time to 1662 when women had very few rights and it’s easy to see that Mary Deerfield’s life is not going to be easy. The daughter of wealthy merchants, Mary is married to Thomas Deerfield, a pillar of the community. Everyone thinks that Thomas works hard and provides a comfortable home for his much younger wife. But the community doesn’t see him when he drinks. Only Mary knows what it is to suffer his rages.

One fateful day, when Thomas has had too much to drink, he grabs hold of a three-tined fork and rams it into Mary’s hand. The pain and fear of what he’s done drive Mary to seek refuge with her parents. She thinks that the best thing to do is to divorce from Thomas but unfortunately for Mary, it’s much easier for the community to point the finger and accuse her of witchcraft than to listen to her testimony of cruelty.

Why even their servant girl only speaks highly of Thomas and is quick to point out the devil’s forks and other strange things that she witnessed in the household. Mary is forced to return to her home and to Thomas but she will find a way to escape her misery.

I’ve read some reviews that thought the author’s use of language and too many “thees” and “thous” were distracting but to me, I actually felt like I was in the time period. I thought the court scenes were so interesting and the very idea of a woman seeking a divorce during that timeframe is fascinating. If there is one thing that I didn’t like as much was the ending because it did feel a bit too perfect but that said, I really enjoyed reading this book. If you are at all interested in the Puritans, a historical setting and/or witch trials, I recommend it.

  1. October 6, 2021
  2. October 7, 2021
  3. October 12, 2021