Katherine Howe comes to the blog today with a unique time-slip story moving between present-day and Colonial era New England, using the Salem Witch Trials and a mystery to bring the story forward. Narrated by Katherine Kellgren, please read on for my review of
The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane
Drawn in by the intriguing synopsis and cover, I was curious to see just how one could work witchcraft and spellbooks into a graduate thesis project. But, be warned –Here Be Dragons – not in the ‘they are in the story’ sense, but in the multiple issues, miscues and mistakes contained within the book. I wanted to really like this book and be transported to Salem both in current day and past, but the issues were constantly taking me out of the story, with no real reason to want to suspend belief or engage.
Firstly – the main character Connie, ostensibly a Harvard graduate student is completely and utterly clueless. If your area of focus is the Colonial Era – you should at least have a passing knowledge of the language use, popular names, spelling irregularities and just some general SENSE about the world around her – present or past. I couldn’t even bring myself to believe that she was in university – let alone a top-flight school – her language use, conversations and personality all screamed 12 year old girl. Then, ignoring her obvious educational deficits, we then discuss her reason for being in Salem in the first place – the disposition of her Grandmother’s house – a grandmother she ‘doesn’t remember meeting – but pages later is fondly remembering a Christmas spent with her. Even if the author missed this glaring issue – the editing should have caught it – and didn’t. Furthermore – Connie is just meh. No real reason to remember her (except to wonder just how she actually got into Harvard) – add in the conveniently placed romantic interest, nice enough but that’s just it. Nice enough.
I found myself struggling to pay attention and concentrate – a steady voice in my head was revising, rewriting and finding places where the rich history and atmosphere of the area were lost to the writing – even as it was apparent the author did actually research – daily life ‘flashbacks’ felt plausible and rich with language, beliefs and habits – if only her heroine had a clue. These flashback moments served to show the author’s writing in the best light and were truly the highlights. It was a book that had moments of promise, mired in flat characters and glaring inconsistencies that detracted rather than engaged, leaving me unwilling to recommend this title.
Narration for this story is provided by Katherine Kellgren, and she presented the story with the proper inflections, emotions and consistency that one would hope for. Each character had a distinct patois and tone to speech, making each unique and easy to distinguish, and her ‘enthusiasm’ in delivery in presenting the story when it lagged and was bogged down never lagged – keeping the pacing consistent, a technique that initially helped to overcome the circular pacing of the text.
Stars: Overall 2.5 Narration 4 Story 2
Title: The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane
Author: Katherine Howe
Genre: Colonial Era, Historical Fiction / Fantasy Elements, Horror / Occult, Magic
Narrator: Katherine Kellgren
Published by: Hachette Audio
Published on: 9 January, 2009
Source: Hachette Audio
Audio Length: 12 Hours: 48 minutes
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A spellbinding, beautifully written novel that moves between contemporary times and one of the most fascinating and disturbing periods in American history--the Salem witch trials. 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. As she is drawn deeper into the mysteries of the family house, Connie discovers an ancient key within a seventeenth-century Bible. The key contains a yellowing fragment of parchment with a name written upon it: Deliverance Dane. This discovery launches Connie on a quest--to find out who this woman was and to unearth a rare artifact of singular power: a physick book, its pages a secret repository for lost knowledge. As the pieces of Deliverance's harrowing story begin to fall into place, Connie is haunted by visions of the long-ago witch trials, and she begins to fear that she is more tied to Salem's dark past then she could have ever imagined.
Written with astonishing conviction and grace, The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane travels seamlessly between the witch trials of the 1690s and a modern woman's story of mystery, intrigue, and revelation
A copy of this title was provided via Hachette Audio for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.