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Daughters of the Witching Hill

3.70  ·  Rating Details  ·  3,558 Ratings  ·  499 Reviews
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 fore

Hardcover, 352 pages
Published April 7th 2010 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (first published January 1st 2010)
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Community Reviews

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Mar 07, 2013 Christine rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: lovers of Salem Witchcraft Trials and its related historical fiction
(As posted on Read All Over Reviews)

Though other books have tackled afictitiousaccount of Lancashire Witchcraft Trials of 1612, Mary Sharratt is the first author among them to give Mother Demdike and her granddaughter, Alizon Device, their own say. Daughters of the Witching Hill is told in two voices. The first section being narratedby Bess Southerns (Mother Demdike) and the second by Alizon. Through this we see how both women viewed their world and their gift of cunning craft. Of course, someli
Christy B
Apr 03, 2010 Christy B rated it really liked it
Daughters of the Witching Hill is a beautifully crafted story of what was a horrifying moment in history.

Not knowing much about the 1612 witch trials of the Pendle witches in England, I didn't know what to expect, but I figured that it ended much like the witch trials I do know about: the Salem Witch Trials of 1692. A big difference I noticed is that in the 1612 trials, if someone admitted that they were a witch, they weren't shown leniency, while in the Salem trials, if someone admitted they we
Before I forget, I'd like to say thank you to First Reads and the publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for giving away copies of this book here on Good Reads. I'm happy to have won my copy here. What could be better than free books?!

Mary Sharratt has created a vivid story rich with period detail and social context. Her writing is polished and refined and she is able to create a picture of what life was like for the poor after the Reformation. This book would be an excellent tool for teachers who
Lancashire England, late 1500's, a place of old Catholic mysticism, fairies and superstition. An aging Elizabeth rules, as does the Protestant faith and Catholics must worship in secret or face imprisonment or worse. Bess Southerns is a poor widow trying to eke out an honest living for herself and her children and one day she's *adopted* by an imp in the form of a dog and like *magic* she can heal the sick (both people and animals) by performing blessings. Eventually her great friend Anne, as we ...more
Christy English
Sep 26, 2011 Christy English rated it it was amazing
This novel is amazing. I felt almost as if I were bewitched as I read it, drawn into the magical, heart-rending world that Mary Sharratt has created. Using trial records from a witch hunt in Lancaster County, England in 1612, Ms. Sharratt brings the accused Bess Southerns and her granddaughter Alizon to brilliant, vibrant life. A jewel of a novel that makes me hungry for more of Ms. Sharratt's beautiful work.
Bethany Wade
Apr 28, 2014 Bethany Wade rated it it was ok
I wasn't really sure how I felt when I got to the end of this book.

While Daughters of the Witching Hill does explore the interesting idea of the sometimes thin line between religion and superstition, it fails to provide a real conflict. There is the sense of dread at the possibility of the "cunning" women being discovered and charged with witchcraft, but this lingering nervousness is not really enough to keep the reader engaged through the entirety of the book. Also, the author never fully expl
Jul 04, 2011 Linda rated it really liked it
This is a very compelling story with substance, one with strong women characters that resonates intellectually and emotionally. It’s based on the true story of the infamous and well-documented Pendle witch trials of 1612. The story is filled with atmosphere and poignant relationships showing not only the very human side of these women being accused of witch craft, but also the religious zealotry that fueled the fear. There is also a timelessness to the human flaws demonstrated in this book provo ...more
Jan 16, 2012 Linty rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Like a lot of people I am familiar with the Salem witch trials, but I knew almost nothing about the trials of the Pendle witches in England in 1612.

This is a well written book. The ending(no surprise how it can take a guess), brought it up a bit for me. 3/4 of the book follows the characters through their lives. It's not until the final 1/4 that you get to the trials itself(which is written really well--I felt I was there).

The characters are realistically imagined and the author
Jul 29, 2010 Elena rated it it was amazing
"Only then did I dare look around the chamber to see the wonders hidden there. A candle in a lamp of red glass hung from the shadowy beams. There was a great table covered in embroidered cloth and above it a cross with a tortured man's body nailed to it....Then Gran turned me round to face the most beautiful thing I'd ever seen: a statue of a lady with flowing hair and tender eyes, her arms outstretched as if to embrace me.
'That's Our Lady,' Gran whispered. 'The Queen of Heaven.'
Stood upon a
Ashley *Hufflepuff Kitten*
I don't remember when I bought this book; all I know is it's been on my shelf for years. I do recall picking it up to read once, but I couldn't get into it then and passed over it for something a bit easier. Given my fascination with the Salem witch trials and otherwise nonexistent knowledge of other witch trials, this book has always held a certain allure for me. Also, the cover is pretty. Sue me.

The voices of Bess Southerns and Alizon Device are perfectly captured in these pages, and even thou
Diane S ☔
Oct 27, 2015 Diane S ☔ rated it liked it
Review to follow.
Amy Bruno
Apr 08, 2010 Amy Bruno rated it it was amazing
Don't you love it when you start a book and immediately get sucked in just from the first few sentences? Well, that's what happened when I began to read Daughters of the Witching Hill. This book had me from hello!

Mary Sharratt paints a vivid and moving story of the Pendle Witches (also known as the Lancashire Witches), a true story of a group of women and men thought to be witches and hung in Lancashire, England in 1612. DOTWH is told through the eyes of Mother Demdike (Bess Southerns) and her g
Jan 28, 2010 Sarah rated it really liked it
As a history minor when I was in college, I did my senior thesis on the Salem witch trials. So I was extremely excited to receive an advance copy of this book through First Reads.

This seemed a very fast read for me, but then the subject is fascinating to me so that helps how quickly I can get through a book. This was hard, very hard to read, however, in an emotional sense. Knowing that this story is based on a true account (though the story is itself fiction) makes it seem much more real.

I thou
Nov 23, 2015 Stacey rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kindle
Overall I liked this book, although I wasn't fan of how the story switched points of view in the middle. The story starts with Bess Southerns and how she became to be a blesser and then switches to that of her granddaughter, Alizon who has inherited her gifts. We see how people do not understand or are jealous of their gifts. They are also easy targets if something unfortunate befalls someone. As with most witch hunts, it is sad to see what befalls these people based on just the accusations of o ...more
Ruth Trask
Apr 23, 2016 Ruth Trask rated it it was amazing
I loved this book. Having watched the BBC documentary "The Pendle Witch Child" a couple of years ago, I was already familiar with certain aspects of the lives of the main characters and I think the author stayed faithful to much of what is known about this ultimately tragic episode in Lancashire history. She has done her research and woven a tale of fiction around one of fact in a fascinating way, including real charms reported at the time, real blessings and curses, but also very real people. T ...more
Mar 28, 2013 Melodie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this story of Bess Southern and her granddaughter, Alison Device in seventeenth century England. Considered cunning folk, Mother Demdike as she was commonly known, was a blesser. She healed and blessed ailing farm animals and family members. She could also see the future. Looked upon with a mixture of suspicion and reverence, she went about her daily life trying to keep her family together through mostly lean times, and staying out from under the baleful eye of the reformed chu ...more
May 05, 2011 Astrid rated it really liked it
This historical novel is an interesting account of a true witch hunt and trial in 1612 in England. Before I read this book I was not aware of the similarities between the Salem Witch hysteria and similar ones in England spurred by King James I's writings. The author described the practicing of faith of both Protestants and Catholics (who had to hide their devotion) during the Reformation period which I had never thought about before. This book is a believable and engaging retelling of the sad, h ...more
Aug 24, 2015 Alaine rated it did not like it
Shelves: unfinished
I think that by the time a person is 24% into a book, some sort of point to the story should be emerging. It just dragged on and on. I guess I also felt kind of let down because I didn't realize going in how very fictionalized it was going to be. I would be much more interested to read about the true story of what happened with these women. I do not for a second believe they had spirit familiars that helped them perform magic. I do believe they found ways to get by in hard times, using the optio ...more
Daughters of the Witching Hill by Mary Sharratt

To survive in England in 1588 Demdike and her daughter would often hire themselves out to work in homes, fields etc to feed themselves. Demdike had a gift in which she was able to Bless livestock, children, she gave love spells and spells to help women in need of having a baby or not. Demdike was boosted out of poverty with her gift.
When Liza married and had a baby girl Alizon. Alizon was Demdike's pride and joy for she too had the gift of Blessing
Nov 01, 2015 Glenda rated it liked it
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 best 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 neig
Paul Pessolano
Feb 03, 2011 Paul Pessolano rated it liked it
In 1612 in Lancashire, England, the town of Pendle hill, seven women and two men were hanged for witchcraft. An eighth woman escaped the hangman's noose by dying in prison.

Although written as fiction, the story is based in historical fact, not unlike the Salem Witch Trials.

The story revolves around Bess Southern and her family. King Henry VIII has dissolved the Catholic Church but many still remain true to the Church and remain steeped in the ways of the Church.

Bess is known throughout the count
Feb 05, 2011 Felice rated it it was ok
This novel is a what if, fictionalized account, inspired by true events retelling of the Pendle Witch Trails of 1612. In Sharratt's Pendle grandmother Bess and granddaughter Alizon lead a life on the margins. They are under no ones protection and therefore suspects in everything and anything negative that occurs in the local community. Bess supports her small family with healing, herbal medicines and some fortune telling. She is also schooling Alizon and neighbor Anne in her craft. When a magist ...more
Aug 11, 2010 Brenda rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: those who are interested in historical witchcraft trials
Shelves: favorites
I once had a student tell me that we couldn't allow/encourage children or adults to read the Harry Potter novels in school because, if we did, we would have to start burning witches again! Instead of assigning Harry Potter, I think I would like to require students to read books based on actual witchcraft cases. I read transcripts of witchcraft trials when I was in middle school--and, even then, I was horrified by the irrationality and injustice of the prosecutors. I'm not sure how many of today' ...more
May 13, 2011 Tahira rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really rather enjoyed Daughters of the Witching Hill.

Based on the events of the 1612 Pendle Witch Trials in England, this story is haunting. It is also thought-provoking, irreverent and captivating. One of my favorite parts of this novel is its ultimate portrayal of women and sisterhood, which is neither exclusive nor catty, but curious, brazen, loving, open, wise and honest.

Additionally, the writing is vivid and lush. It is clear that Sharratt has done extensive research on the topic. While
Apr 24, 2010 Caitlin rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2010
This had a slow start for me and I actually thought about giving it up, but I'm so glad I didn't because once I got far enough into it the book opened itself up to me like a flower and revealed its stark beauty, sadness, and pain.

I didn't know anything about this particular set of witch hunts, but I'm familiar with the time period (and grateful I don't live in it). I've read a lot of books recently where the tension between the old faith (Catholicism) and the new one (Protestantism) has played a
Jun 14, 2010 Amy rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, read-in-2010
Although I rather enjoy historical fiction, I haven't read a great deal about this time period. For some reason, I tend to gravitate towards later years in history. So, I was interested in giving this novel a read since it sounded like a really interesting story.

It took me awhile to get into the book but once I began to get into it, it was fantastic. I think that it took me some time to warm up to the period of history and getting the 'lay of the land' with the novel. But, once I was able to get
Apr 08, 2011 Julia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Reviewed by Andrea (A Chick Who Reads) at

Daughters of the Witching Hill may be fiction but its cast and storyline are taken straight from the history books. The time period of this novel is the late 1500’s through the early 1600’s. The story is based on the Pendle Witch Trials of 1612.

The book gets off to a slow start as the author recounts a lot of Bess Demdike’s coming into her powers and discovering her familiar “Tibbs.” If she could be called anything it would be a good w
Lydia Presley
Jun 19, 2010 Lydia Presley rated it really liked it
It took me three false starts to read this book. It's a heartbreaking story and not a happy one - but that's not the reason I had so many false starts.

The writing in this book is fantastic. So fantastic it's hard to read, hard to understand and takes an incredible amount of willpower to continue to read. At times it felt like my brain is hurting - but that was the reason the book was so fantastic. I felt as if I had been transported to the 1612 Lancashire witch trials and I could hear Old Demdik
Apr 27, 2010 Jennifer rated it really liked it
Recommended to Jennifer by:
The Salem Witch Trials were taught when I was in high school and I often find myself drawn to stories revolving around them. The Pendle Witches are a new topic for me even though these trials occurred over 80 years before Salem.

I liked how the all of the women in this novel were strong, but each in their own ways. The witches were shown not as evil or completely free from guilty, but in the gray area of trying to do right by the ones they love.

Daughters of the Witching Hill is beautifully writte
Apr 23, 2010 Allie rated it really liked it
Sharratt does a great job of telling the story of the Pendle witches of 1612. I had never made the connection between witches and Catholicism after the Reformation and I think Sharratt illustrated the similarities in a believable way. She also brought in some pagan theology too, which was interesting and kind of shows how religion had evolved. I enjoyed the details of Mother Demdike and her granddaughter Alizon's day to day lives, and I was devastated at their treatment towards the end of the bo ...more
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Mary Sharratt is an American writer who lives with her Belgian husband in the Pendle region of Lancashire, England, the setting for her acclaimed 2010 novel, DAUGHTERS OF THE WITCHING HILL, which recasts the Pendle Witches of 1612 in their historical context as cunning folk and healers.

Previously she lived for twelve years in Germany. This, along with her interest in sacred music and herbal medic
More about Mary Sharratt...

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“Tibb has admonished me to be careful which road I walked, but in truth no road was simple, straightforward, or, indeed, what it appeared to be at first glimpse. Every path was tricksy, full of turns and twists and blind corners with God-only-knew-what dangers lurching round the bend.” 3 likes
“The quickest thing to turn to hate is love betrayed.” 0 likes
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