Daughters of the Witching Hill
Inspired by the 1612 Pendle witch trials in Lancashire, England, Sharratt tells a dramatic story of love and treachery. Told from the viewpoint of Bess Southerns, destitute widow and cunning woman, we gain a sense of what it was like to be instructed in, accused of, and ultimately hung for witchcraft.
The novel stretches over the span of time when Bess gains her ‘powers’ at the age of fifty, through the birth and growth of her granddaughter, Alizon. Bess becomes known throughout her clan for her healing abilities. She gains assistance from her spirit-friend, Tibb, and soon combines Catholic rituals and medicinal herbs to provide locals with all sorts of remedies and ‘magical’ solutions to everyday issues. Alizon quickly learns the craft from her grandmother and helps Bess with her ministrations. Years pass. And in 1612, everything changes when a peddler suffers a stroke after exchanging harsh words with Alizon. A local magistrate tricks Alizon into accusing her family and neighbors of witchcraft. Friends and loved ones turn on one another as suspicion and paranoia reach frenzied heights, and the novel draws to its inevitable ending.
Sharratt successfully combines excellent historical detail, drama, and emotional accounts that blend beautifully into a vibrant story. Perfectly plotted, impressive and full of tension, this is most assuredly a bewitching tale. Highly recommended.