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The Witchfinder's Sister

Tekijä: Beth Underdown

JäseniäKirja-arvostelujaSuosituimmuussijaKeskimääräinen arvioMaininnat
3593473,199 (3.6)29
"A debut literary historical thriller based on the witch hunts in 1640's England--the most intense in English history--in which Matthew Hopkins, the Witchfinder General, convicted more than a hundred women of witchcraft. In 1645, Alice Hopkins returns to her brother's house in disgrace, husbandless and pregnant. The brother she remembers is now a grown man and he's hunting witches: women who live on the margins of society--often childless widows, or women with deformities or feeble minds who are rejected by their communities. Viewed through the eyes of Alice, this is a woman's story of fear, friendship, love, betrayal, and redemption. What--or who--is Matthew really hunting? And to what dark place will his obsession lead them all?"--… (lisätietoja)
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Näyttää 1-5 (yhteensä 34) (seuraava | näytä kaikki)
The Witchfinder’s Sister is a skilful mix of horror, history and social commentary that’s great fun to read. I had an uneasy sense of ‘I have no idea where there is going, but wherever it is it isn’t going there very quickly’ for the first third, got into it a bit more for the middle third and loved it after that.
The concept is a good one (Witchfinder Matthew Hopkins had a sister who was trying to stop him), there’s some solid threads of mystery running throughout it, and it manages to make the reader think about how male society treats women without seeming preachy about it. The story is well told and there are some really nice touches, especially towards the end. Now someone just needs to make a time machine, save Michael Reeves from his untimely death, and hire him to make a movie of it as a companion to his Witchfinder General. ( )
  whatmeworry | Apr 9, 2022 |
Beth Underdown is a writer to watch, an author who has definite talent, even though The Witchfinder's Sister doesn't quite fulfill those expectations.

The story itself is based on real events, with Underdown drawing from the historical figure of Matthew Hopkins, a "witchfinder" who was responsible for the death of more than one hundred women in the 1640s.

The story itself is told from the perspective of Hopkins's sister Alice, invented here by Underdown, who relates what has happened from her attic prison. From the beginning, the writing is taut and controlled, with Underdown demonstrating real skill in the construction of her prose.

A secretly pregnant Alice returns to Manningtree from London after the death of her husband, Joseph, who died while testing one of the guns he was learning to make. She is increasingly drawn not only into Matthew's intrigues, but also her mysterious family history: her mother's madness (hatred of sex with her husband drives her to lie with a random stranger, who is probably Matthew's real father); inconsistencies over who inflicted the scars on Matthew when he was a baby (it seems that they were inflicted by his mother, not the wet-nurse, as it was claimed); and the missing pages from Alice's father's journal (which strongly suggest, once found, that Joseph, Alice's husband, was her half-brother, the offspring of her father and the servant Bridget). Underdown demonstrates a fine sense of humor at certain points - the novel concludes, for instance, with Alice, hoping to escape from the chaos of the recent witch trials, to Salem, MA!

There are two major problems with this novel, as far I was concerned. First, the narrative drags on far too long for the amount of story that Underdown has to work with. A judicious editor should have cut this story down to two hundred pages. Second, Underdown fails to capitalize on the ambiguities and uncertainties of using a first-person narrator, especially in these controversial circumstances. Alice is far too unbelievably "naive" for most of the story, and I couldn't help but thinking repeatedly of the collaborators in the Nazi death camps whose self-proclaimed "innocence" is open to deep suspicion. I had lost all sympathy with her by the end of the novel.

The Witchfinder's Sister aspires to follow in the fine tradition of British historical fiction exemplified by Iain Pears or Michel Faber. As a debut novel, it shows great promise, especially in terms of prose style, and I would definitely take a chance on Underdown's next novel. That said, I hope her work matures in the areas of plot and character development, the areas where this book was the weakest. ( )
1 ääni vernaye | May 23, 2020 |
An interesting work of historical fiction set during the time of the witch hunts in 17th-century England, with only ambiguous hints of the paranormal. The witchfinder of the title is a deeply disturbed man, literally and figuratively scarred, who enacts his long-ingrown hatred of women on the innocent women of nearby villages and, ultimately, on his own sister. Another historical story that makes plain how very few choices women had and how easy it was to destroy them. I admired Alice, the sister, and the resolution that carried her through the trauma she endured, even if her narrative voice was somewhat dry. ( )
  sturlington | Mar 31, 2020 |
We've all heard of the Salem witch trials but we often forget that similar witch-hunts were going on in Britain, led by Matthew Hopkins in Essex. In the days before plucking and waxing, woe betide any woman with a furred brow or hairy lip as they may find themselves being labelled as a witch. Many unfortunate women in The Witchfinder's Sister are unfairly accused of being witches and maybe there is one real witch in the story - will Matthew's methods of detection identify her?

Alice thought she had escaped the strange ways of her brother, Matthew, when she married Joseph and they set up home in London, however, Joseph's sudden death sees her return from London to Manningtree. Alice is carrying her own precious secret, a secret that she knows she can't keep hidden for long, not when Matthew has eyes and ears in the whole town.

Matthew has strange secretive meetings at the house and Alice overhears enough to make her fear for the safety of her mother-in-law Bridget. Bridget has been close to the Hopkins family for many years, and knows more than she is willing to let on about the terrible scarring Matthew has on his face. Matthew was told that he crawled into the open fire as a baby but Alice finds out the truth that Bridget has kept hidden for many years. Will it be too late to save Bridget from Matthew's witch-hunt?

There are so many interesting stories within The Witchfinder's Sister that it's a guaranteed page-turner. Alice's story is tragic and poignant but as his sister she's known Matthew since he was born so she knows how he works. My heart went out to the poor women who were tried as witches, made even more poignant by the fact that the characters in the book were real women who were tried by Matthew Hopkins in the Essex Witch Trials.

Reading The Witchfinder's Sister is like having a secret window into the 17th Century. It is so impeccably researched and filled to the brim with interesting facts that are so cleverly woven into the fiction, almost hidden in plain sight if we choose to see them. Never has a fiction book had me racing off to google both during and after reading it. I was absolutely gobsmacked at the origins of 'hocus pocus' and I was delighted to see Alice having beer for breakfast!

The Witchfinder's Sister is a stunning debut by Beth Underdown. Her wonderful descriptive writing style naturally draws the reader into the story and seems to take on such authenticity of the period that I really felt as if I was there watching the trials unfold. The ending was jaw-droppingly brilliant and, although a very good end to the book, I for one would love to see the story continue.

I chose to read an ARC and this is my honest and unbiased opinion. ( )
1 ääni Michelle.Ryles | Mar 9, 2020 |
I honestly believe that something like this novel could happen today. Just look what’s happening in our world today. Matthew Hopkins took it upon himself to ostracize and condemn women, many of them old women, who didn’t conform to “society” standards. History repeats itself. Just under a different name. ( )
  Arkrayder | Aug 13, 2019 |
Näyttää 1-5 (yhteensä 34) (seuraava | näytä kaikki)
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Englanninkielinen Wikipedia

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"A debut literary historical thriller based on the witch hunts in 1640's England--the most intense in English history--in which Matthew Hopkins, the Witchfinder General, convicted more than a hundred women of witchcraft. In 1645, Alice Hopkins returns to her brother's house in disgrace, husbandless and pregnant. The brother she remembers is now a grown man and he's hunting witches: women who live on the margins of society--often childless widows, or women with deformities or feeble minds who are rejected by their communities. Viewed through the eyes of Alice, this is a woman's story of fear, friendship, love, betrayal, and redemption. What--or who--is Matthew really hunting? And to what dark place will his obsession lead them all?"--

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