My Reading Brain

Daughters of the Witching Hill Review

By: Mary Sharratt
Summary:Daughters of the Witching Hill brings history to life in a vivid and wrenching account of a family sustained by love as they try to survive the hysteria of a witch-hunt. Bess Southerns, an impoverished widow living in Pendle Forest, is haunted by visions and gains a reputation as a cunning woman. Drawing on the Catholic folk magic of her youth, Bess heals the sick and foretells the future. As she ages, she instructs her granddaughter, Alizon, in her craft, as well as her best friend, who ultimately turns to dark magic.

When a peddler suffers a stroke after exchanging harsh words with Alizon, a local magistrate, eager to make his name as a witch finder, plays neighbors and family members against one another until suspicion and paranoia reach frenzied heights.

Sharratt interweaves well-researched historical details of the 1612 Pendle witch-hunt with a beautifully imagined story of strong women, family, and betrayal. Daughters of the Witching Hill is a powerful novel of intrigue and revelation.

Review: A fictionalized retelling of the Pendle of The Witch Trials of 1612, inspired by true events. Sharratt’s Pendle is a town where Grandmother Bess and Granddaughter Alizon live below the poverty line. Locals suspect them of bad things happening to them because they are poor and vulnerable. To feed their small family, Bess provides healing, herbal remedies, and fortune-telling. Her craft is also being taught to Alizon and her neighbor Anne. The situation worsens as a magistrate manipulates Alizon into admitting to witchcraft.

Towards the end of the book, I wasn’t sure what I felt.

It explores the interesting idea of a thin line between religion and superstition, but does not provide a real conflict between the two. The book's treatment of accused women's witchcraft cannot captivate.

The author never explains the familiars. They seemed unnecessary to the plot. I found this story to be very relational, and I enjoyed the emphasis on friendship, family, and loyalty. Also, the author handles the arrests and trials of the suspected witches. She presents an accurate portrayal of the legal system in that era in her text.

The bad news is that it wasn’t the right choice for me.