Author: Stacy Schiff
Source: from publisher for review
Links: Bookshop (affiliate link) |Goodreads
Summary: The big picture story was fascinating, but the trial details felt like boring lists and resolution was lacking.
“It began in 1692, over an exceptionally raw Massachusetts winter, when a minister’s daughter began to scream and convulse. It ended less than a year later, but not before 19 men and women had been hanged and an elderly man crushed to death. The panic spread quickly, involving the most educated men and prominent politicians in the colony.” (source) Even today, the reasons behind the accusations and persecutions of this time remain a mystery.
After enjoying Stacy Schiff’s Cleopatra, I had high hopes for this book. It turned out to be a little more hit or miss for me. Parts were very good. The overall story was fascinating. I enjoyed the author’s digressions about the backgrounds of specific people and about details of life and religion in New England. I enjoyed the details of the specific trials a lot less. The outcome of the trials was essentially a foregone conclusion, so there was no suspense. The details of one trial were much like all the others, enough so that even with a detailed cast list, I had a hard time remembering people enough to be emotionally involved.
The main emotion I felt while reading this book was frustration. It was frustrating to hear about people making such crazy, illogical decisions. It was frustrating to have so many people it was impossible to keep track of everyone. And then at the end, it was frustrating that the author didn’t have much of an explanation for the events that occurred. The theory she advanced was too vague and it was unclear how much support there was for her particularly theory. Despite the parts I enjoyed, the book often felt like a slog to get through. If you’re considering reading this book, I’d highly recommend checking out Cleopatra instead.