Anna Goeldin -The Last Witch

Written by Evelyn Hassler Mary Bryant (trans.)
Review by Laura Staley

In 1780 Switzerland, Anna Goeldin, 46, is unmarried, footloose, and attractive. She accepts a position as a maid for one of Glarus canton’s most powerful families. At first it seems like a good fit, but in October of 1781, she is accused of putting pins in the food and drink of one of the family’s children, a nine-year-old girl who has quarreled with Anna. The maid is dismissed and leaves town, but the child is taken ill and continues to spit up pins and nails. The townsfolk decide Anna has “corrupted” the girl and hunt her down. She’s tried and found guilty in 1782.

In this fictionalized account, trial records and contemporary documents help show how a convergence of social resentments, class antagonism, inter-family rivalries, and simple fear resulted in the deaths of two people, an incident that shocked Switzerland and Europe and apparently gave rise to the term “judicial murder.” Hasler convincingly portrays how those in power made the decisions they did, but she also never loses sight of the innocents who lost their lives. Fans of good historical fiction will enjoy this book.