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The Lancashire Witches

3.31  ·  Rating Details  ·  157 Ratings  ·  21 Reviews
A hundred years ago, churchmen in Lancashire set upon one another -- one sold his soul to the devil, and used his unfathomable power to send his rival to the gallows. The man he condemned died cursing him and his children . . . and those children became "The Lancashire Witches." Mother Demdike -- the crone who was the child of the man who sold his soul to the devil -- has ...more
Hardcover, 548 pages
Published October 1st 2006 by Aegypan (first published 1854)
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(showing 1-30 of 592)
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May 22, 2010 Surreysmum rated it liked it
[These notes were made in 1984. I read this title in the undated but definitely 19th-century "Edition de Luxe" published by G.H. Howell:]. From the frequency with which I see its title, I think this must have been one of Ainsworth's more popular works, and indeed, in terms of a working narrative, it's one of his better ones. The nineteenth-century scholar/historian tone is nearly gone (he pops up sometimes, but he doesn't do a travelogue), and the novel is based on the assumption that witchcraft ...more
Feb 03, 2011 Mark rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Coming from Pendle Country, the Lancashire Witches are deeply ingrained in my psyche and I have read one or two factual books about them and, of course, the classic Mist Over Pendle, which explains the mystic happenings in a very matter of fact way; people die from heart attacks or poison, not witchcraft. Not so with this fabulous book! You want witches flying through the sky on broomsticks? You got it! You want witch's familiars, cats from hell? You got it! It's like Harry Potter for grown-ups ...more
My goodness it took me a month to read this! But then it was a very long 19th century book that I mostly read a few pages off before I fell asleep at night. I was a bit wearing starting this after the last Scott I read being so disappointing but this was not at all. This was a wonderful Gothic story with witches (both good and bad), ghostly monks, and power hungry nobles. Unlike the Scott, so much happened, there was a prequel establishing the witches family, and then their troubles in the time ...more
May 15, 2015 Alex marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
1849. JG really dug it.
Jan 10, 2011 Michelle is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
This is really hard to get through because it is written in dialect.
Feb 03, 2015 Patricia rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: already-read
Old English literature

The story line was fantastic and very entertaining. It gave a fairly arcuate account of the activities and persecution of people accused of being witches. It also gave the accounts of the rich trying to take over the church and outcast of the priest and monks. It told of the back handed and black hearted deals and lengths these politicians would go to to seek power. However where there is greed and deals lay the other side the ancient witches who had indeed been there lyin
Jan 03, 2010 Tara rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This novel was quite the 'blockbuster' in its day. As an entertainment, it hasn't aged terribly well - it's cliche-ridden and far too long. To be fair, Ainsworth makes no pretence of pursuing historical accuracy and his story bears little relation to the real case. Some of his inventions - such as making the accused peasant, Alizon Device, the illegitimate daughter of a lady, Alice Nutter - have no basis in truth and should not be confused with fact, as has sometimes occurred. But as a plot devi ...more
Feb 16, 2016 bup rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I think my favorite thing about this gothic romance is that one of the characters - an attorney working for the crown to ferret out witches (and who, historically, was the clerk of the county) - is just as bad as anybody else.

Ainsworth also, although it may have been unintentional, doesn't make clear which way he's going - whether the witchcraft is real, or the creation of a superstitious populace - for a good long while in the telling. But when he makes it clear, he puts the pedal to the metal
Z Coonen
Nov 21, 2013 Z Coonen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobook
Based on history, the "romance" in the subtitle is a bittersweet love quite unlike any modern day steamy novel (thankfully). The main theme is good v. evil, church v. witches, honest v. duplicitous. The audiobook read by Andy Minter is quite wonderful listening. I must admit that it was hard to understand the speech pattern of some of the characters - kind of a lazy Irish brogue - and I found the text online. Listening and reading along helped me understand the words initially; later I was able ...more
Nienke Hazenoot
I liked this novel.
I liked the way Ainsworth used writings about actual events and stll gave the characters and the storylines his own particular twist. Sometimes the dialogue was hard to read. I had to get used to it at first, but after I got the hang of it, it added to he authenticity of the whole.
The characters are well developed, although a reader shouldn't expect a historically correct representation of them, since, like I said, Ainsworth added his own twist to most of them.
The descriptions
Jul 28, 2015 Nicki rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: abandoned
Didn't understand any of this so only read first couple of chapters.
Aug 07, 2014 Quirkyreader rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was an interesting read.
Brenda  Britton
Dec 06, 2011 Brenda Britton rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An interesting concept of Lancashire witches that delves into fantasy and even horror. It needs some translation at first unless you are familiar with Lancashire dialect but the dialect doesn't continue throughout the book. The book shows a good side to Alice Nutter and Alizon Device that is not shown in other books and there are plenty of evil spirits and familiars around Malkin Tower.
Read this years ago but had forgotten how hard going the Victorian language could be. Not to mention his interpretation of dialect! And I'm from Lancashire! I'd also forgotten how melodramatic it is and how far from the reality of the historical event. Think I'll have to read Jeanette Winterson's interpretation and possibly a straightforward history book about it.
Apr 23, 2012 Lisa rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The story moved too slow for my taste. I actually nodded off while listening to the audioboook version. Thought perhaps I would do better actually reading it and attempted to do so but had the same result. It's never a good sign to fall asleep while reading. I struggled to push through this book. I can't really recommend it other than for a good nap.
Amy Lynn
Mar 25, 2015 Amy Lynn rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Unreadable. Sad because my Nana gave me this book before she died and I literally can't understand the Lancastrian dialogue used for the peasant characters, and had to give up.
What a fun old fashiondy read. So much archaic language but an interesting story if you want to plow through the phonetic dialogue.
Lori Spier
The Lancashire Witches A Romance of Pendle Forest by William Harrison Ainsworth (2009)
Oscar de Muriel
Nov 13, 2015 Oscar de Muriel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Loved it! (and by the end I was fluent in Lancashire dialect!)
Stacy Parker
Don't even remember reading it
Dec 19, 2012 Tamara rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting historical tale.
Tracey Billson
Tracey Billson marked it as to-read
May 27, 2016
Josephine marked it as to-read
May 24, 2016
Minstrelka marked it as to-read
May 20, 2016
Helen M Abrahams
Helen M Abrahams marked it as to-read
May 18, 2016
Sarah Imbert
Sarah Imbert rated it did not like it
May 25, 2016
Carly Pollard
Carly Pollard marked it as to-read
May 11, 2016
James Boocock
James Boocock is currently reading it
May 08, 2016
Sasha Field
Sasha Field rated it it was amazing
May 05, 2016
Elaine rated it did not like it
May 02, 2016
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William Harrison Ainsworth was educated at Manchester Grammar School and later articled to a solicitor, deserting this profession for literature.

Among his best known novels are The Tower of London (1840), Old St. Paul's (1841), Windsor Castle (1843) and The Lancashire Witches (1848).
More about William Harrison Ainsworth...

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