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A powerful fictional account of a family caught up in the Pendle witch-hunt of 1612|
Daughters of the Witching Hill
Author: Mary Sharratt
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Category: fiction Level: All
"What a voice Mary Sharratt has. She brings a haunting, ancient story to life."
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 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.
What the critics are saying:
“Gorgeously imagined . . . . Sharratt crafts her complex yet credible account by seamlessly blending historical fact, modern psychology, and vivid evocations of the daily life of the poor whose only hope of empowerment lay in the black arts.”
--Publisher’s Weekly, Starred Review
“What makes this story stand out are the strong voices of the two main characters, stalwart Bess Southerns (aka Demdike) and her feisty granddaughter Alizon Device . . . . a fascinating tale. The story unfolds without melodrama and is therefore all the more powerful.”
--Library Journal, Starred Review
“The Pendle witches’ story, retold as a passionate saga of female friendship.”
“Sharratt fills the book with fascinating accounts of rituals and magic practices, and her gift for the language of the era brings the narrative to life. Striking just the right balance between the demands of fact and the allure of a good story, she has produced a novel that’s both convincing and compelling. Daughters is—literally—a spellbinding book.”
“An extremely well-written, highly detailed story . . . . This book should be on every modern witch’s bookshelf.”
--Bronwyn Forbes, Pagan Book Reviews
“A great read on many levels – good historical fiction, excellent strong female characters and an ending that – despite the fact that I knew roughly what happened – had me close to tears.”
--Geraldine Charles, Goddess Pages
Learn more about the book and the Pendle Witches:
Watch the author's short docudrama on the Pendle Witches, filmed live on location around Pendle Hill:
Look for Mary’s article “Mother Demdike: Ancestor of My Heart” in the May issue of Sagewoman
Join Mary on her traditional tour and virtual blog tour: http://booktour.com/author/mary_sharratt#new-event
On Wednesday, April 7, she appears on The Wild Hunt Blog
On Thursday, April 15, 6:00 pm at Magus Books, 1309 ˝ 4th St. SE Minneapolis
On Friday, April 16, on Waverly Fitzgerald’s Blog, Living in Season
On Friday, April 23, on Kris Waldherr’s Blog Art & Words
On Friday, April 30, on the Gaian Tarot Blog
On Wednesday, May 12, 6:00 Pacific Standard Time, on Karen Tate’s podcast, Voices of the Sacred Feminine
Come follow Mary on her blog. Read a free excerpt of the novel, enter her Reader Review Contest, learn the Charms of the Pendle Witches, and discover more about historical cunning folk and wisewomen:
Author's Notes: The wild, brooding landscape of Pendle Hill in Lancashire, Northern England, my home for the past seven years, gave birth to my new novel, DAUGHTERS OF THE WITCHING HILL, which tells the true story of the Pendle Witches.
In 1612, seven women and two men from Pendle Forest were hanged for witchcraft, but the most notorious of the accused, Bess Southerns, aka Mother Demdike, cheated the hangman by dying in prison. This is how Thomas Potts, describes her in THE WONDERFULL DISCOVERIE OF WITCHES IN THE COUNTIE OF LANCASTER:
"She was a very old woman, about the age of Foure-score yeares, and had been a Witch for fiftie yeares. She dwelt in the Forrest of Pendle, a vast place, fitte for her profession: What shee committed in her time, no man knowes. . . . No man escaped her or her Furies."
Other books have been written about the Pendle Witches--both nuanced and lurid. Mine is the first to tell the tale from Bess Southerns's point of view. I longed to give her what her world denied her--her own voice.
History is a fluid thing that continually shapes the present. Set in an era of religious intolerance, political strife, suspicion, and social inequality, Bess and her family's struggle to survive the 1612 witch-hunt feels more relevant than ever. I hope you will be as moved by their story as I am.
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