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The Witchfinder's Sister by Beth Underdown - Review

Sunday, September 9, 2018


Where did I get it? My friend Sarah bought it for me for Christmas, she went to uni with the author I think so thought the book might appeal to me

What's it about? It's about the witchfinder Matthew Hopkins, told from the point of view of his sister, Alice. At the beginning of the book Alice has been living in London with her husband Joseph, but her stepmother has died and Joseph too, so she sets off back to her brother's home in Manningtree in Essex. She is expecting a baby, having lost four previously, so she is taking care of herself and hoping Matthew will give her and her child a home. 

Matthew has bought an inn to live in, and he gives Alice a somewhat cold welcome. She begins to hear rumours of women being accused of witchcraft, including Bridget, her mother in law. Bridget had been a servant in the Hopkins house, but was sent away when Matthew was little, when he crawled into a fire and got badly burnt on his hands and face. Alice sees her mother in law but is soon told not to by Matthew, and Matthew begins his witch hunt across Essex. 

It's a very interesting book, written really accessibly and with a lot of thought behind both Alice's and Matthew's motivations. It's almost a horror, it's got that same uneasy sickness to it where you just know something else terrible lies on the next page. Several parts of the book really shocked me, and I found it quite scary at times too (although i have a very low tolerance). It's an adult novel but I know my friends and I would have loved it at aged sixteen which is why I've chosen to review it like this. It is graphic in parts so be careful, but I do think an older, mature teen would enjoy and probably even relish this book. 

I love historical fiction like this where the author takes a known figure and weaves a history around them. I think it's deftly done here, and is an excellent look into the 1600s, the ethics of the time, and how people probably got whipped into such a frenzy over supposed witches. 

What criticisms do I have? Almost none? I did think it sagged a little bit around the second third, but I still liked it enough to keep reading. 

Would I recommend the book? Absolutely

Why did I choose to read it at this point in life? I didn't. I asked my partner to go into the back bedroom slash library and pick me a book. I couldn't decide what I wanted to read so I asked for help!

What other books is it like? I think it's got the same sick feeling to it as the Woman in Black, even though the stories are very different. I liked how at times I wasn't sure what was real and what wasn't, and I didn't know where the story was going

How many stars? Five out of five

Where is the book going now? I will definitely keep it!



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