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Conjure Wife

3.87  ·  Rating Details ·  1,457 Ratings  ·  134 Reviews
Norman Saylor considered witchcraft nothing but quaint superstition until he learned his own wife was a practising sorceress. Even then, he still refused to accept the truth - one that every woman knows but no man dares to believe - that in the secret occult warfare that governs our everyday lives, witchcraft is a matter of life and death. Conjure Wife is a masterpiece of ...more
Hardcover, 188 pages
Published November 1993 by Buccaneer Books (first published April 1943)
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Bill  Kerwin
May 20, 2007 Bill Kerwin rated it it was amazing
Shelves: weird-fiction, gothic

The premise of this book must have seemed remarkably clever--and unusual--when it appeared in 1943.

What if all the women are witches and keep their craft secret from their husbands? What if their husbands' success in the workplace--their good performance reviews, their promotions, their smallest political victories--are due to their spouses' spells and circles of protection? And what would happen if one of the men found out, and persuaded his wife to renounce magic?

Many novels and films--and an
Nandakishore Varma
Fritz Leiber is an absolute pleasure to read. The narrative moves on at such a fast clip that you will miss the beauty of the language and the craft of the writer unless you purposefully take time to savour it: like the beauty of the countryside is wasted on an impatient traveller seated in a fast train. He is that rare thing, a literary fantasy writer who is exciting as well.

Leiber's plots are always unique and this short novel is no exception. Norman Saylor and his beautiful young wife Tansy a
Feb 28, 2012 Leah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Rating: 3.5 of 5

Everyone knows the saying, "Behind every great man, there's a great woman." Well, in Conjure Wife, the great woman is a witch, and her great man doesn't know that. And it's worldwide: all women are witches, and they either know of or practice witchcraft.

Here's the gist:

One day, feeling good and taking a moment to reflect on his life, Norman Saylor, a professor of sociology at Hempnell College, begins to ponder his successes, one of which he considers his wife, Tansy. How did I ge
Nancy Oakes
Oct 04, 2016 Nancy Oakes rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: horror

actually, somewhere between 4 and 5, but this is one hell of a good novel.

before Matthew knocks on our door and while we still have power I figured I'd post about this book. I did a flip-flop on this one, and watched the movie prior to reading the novel, but I can tell you that the movie follows the book pretty closely.

Norman Saylor is a professor of sociology who finds himself caught up in supernatural forces that he's built a career denying. Norman tea
Mar 24, 2012 Char rated it really liked it
This was a fun novel about a witch.

The professor of a small college discovers that his wife is practicing magic.
He's disgusted that his wife, superstitious and flighty as she is, would do such a thing and orders her to immediately discontinue her practices.
Unfortunately, he does not consider that there could have been benefits associated with her charms.
I enjoyed the book very much despite the prejudices against women. Since this book was published in the 50's, I guess that type of thing is par
Mike (the Paladin)
This was an interesting and attention holding book, with a strange little "hook". The idea here is that "all women" are really part of a worldwide (seemingly)sorority. They're all witches.

A little disturbing for a guy to read....

However I liked it quite a lot. It caused me to read Our Lady of Darkness...a more complex book , but with an inferior story I believe. This one is just better "story-telling".

I found the story catching me quickly and pulling me along toward the climax. Imaginative and a
Feb 06, 2013 Bill rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I can see where this one would be (and should be) considered a classic. It’s hard to believe it was penned in 1943 as it stands up extremely well. You can see the influence Fritz Leiber has had on many of today’s modern horror authors. Well done. 3.5+ Stars
Oct 09, 2009 Stefan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy, horror
Conjure Wife is a 1943 horror novel by master fantasist Fritz Leiber, who is best known for his excellent FAFHRD AND THE GRAY MOUSER stories. While Conjure Wife is usually labeled as horror, the recently released trade paperback edition from Orb is marketed as "the classic of urban fantasy" — maybe to latch on to the recent surge in popularity of that sub-genre? Regardless of which genre it's placed in, Conjure Wife is an excellent novel that definitely deserved a re-release.

Norman Saylor is a s
Charles Dee Mitchell
Jul 21, 2012 Charles Dee Mitchell rated it really liked it
Shelves: horror
Before I knew better, I assumed that Fritz Leiber's Conjure Wife was the basis for Rene Clair's film I Married a Witch. But no. Clair's 1942 film is based on Thorne Smith's The Passionate Witch, published posthumously in 1941. Leiber's novel came out in 1943 and therefore is neither the source of Clair's classic film or, by extension, the long-running 1960's sitcom Bewitched. I could apply the "classic:" modifier to the TV program as well, but it would only prove how pliable a term "classic" can ...more
 Danielle The Book Huntress (Back to the Books)
I read this out of the Dark Ladies: Conjure Wife/Our Lady of Darkness duology, but I wanted to jot down my thoughts separately for this one before I finish the volume.

I found the writing clever. I was transplanted into the cutthroat world of college politics. Who knew that the wives could be just as fierce as their faculty husbands? And that they would resort to sorcery and witchcraft to keep their husbands (and themselves by relation) in power? Things get pretty nasty!

I think that there is some
Bark's Book Nonsense
Dec 11, 2009 Bark's Book Nonsense rated it liked it
Shelves: horror
When Norman Saylor discovers that his wife Tansy has been dabbling in witchcraft he demands that she cease all witchy activity and then demands that she remove all of her protective spells placed upon their home.

This is a mistake Norman will soon live to regret as his comfortable life begins to unravel. See, it seems that Tansy wasn’t the only one practicing witchcraft and the grasping wives of Norman’s colleagues at the college have been practicing as well. Now, what with the protections ceasin
3.0 to 3.5 stars. This was a fun, fast read with a well written (it is Fritz Leiber after all) and well paced plot that kept me engaged until the very end. Two things kept me from giving this story a four star rating. First, the main character, Norman Saylor, was one of those characters that had me screaming at the book things like "what are you, an idiot" by the way he reacts to the plot revelations. For a while you understand it, but when it goes on for as long as it does, it got a bit tedious ...more
May 23, 2010 Marvin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: horror
If you were to find the source of what is now called urban fantasy this tense novel would be it. Written in 1942, not 1953 as the Goodreads description states, Leiber has written a sly and involving work of horror that uses a modern (for the 1940s) college setting to create a world where all women are witches and the men innocently go on their business thinking they are the masters of their castles. It is a Stepford Wives in reverse where the dutiful wives secretly promote their husbands' career ...more
Jun 03, 2013 Algernon rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2013

After I finished with the Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser adventures, I wanted to try something not 'sword & sorcery' by the author. Conjure Wife has been recommended to me as a good example of his more modern work, and indeed it is quality proof of Fritz Leiber versatility. This one is a psychological thriller with strong horror elements. The poet who sang of heroic deeds and exotic landscapes is still present in the elegant prose and powerful atmospheric scenes of tempest and nights in the ce
Heidi Ward
Conjure Wife has been on my TBR list forever, and I'm glad I finally got around to it. Lieber's story of witchcraft at a small university is exciting and claustrophobic, and the black magic believably wrought. It is, though, not without its flaws, which I'm afraid mostly come from the story being just a teeny bit dated. Read it as a period piece from the 1940s, and it's a cracking good tale. Just take the deeply ingrained gender biases - men are professorial, but utterly hoodwinked, husbands, an ...more
Apr 16, 2012 Jean-marcel rated it really liked it
This is probably one of the earliest Leiber books I've got, and I must say that even in these comparatively young days Fritz really knew how to weave an engaging and masterfully told story. Since I was no stranger to Leiber coming into this novel, I think I had a better handle on some of the obsessions and ponderings that he returns to again and again in many of his stories, and so the supposed sexism that prevents some from wholeheartedly appreciating Conjure Wife didn't really strike me as suc ...more
Mar 25, 2012 Chris rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: horror, 2012-reads
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dec 24, 2015 Metaphorosis rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed, 2015-rev
4 stars - Metaphorosis Reviews

Ethnology professor Norman Saylor discovers that his wife has been putting his study of folk-magic to practical use. When he convinces her to stop, things go wrong, and he begins to wonder whether she might have been right to believe in magic after all.

I imagine most people first encounter Fritz Leiber from his Lankhmar series, but many know that he wrote a host of other good books, including Conjure Wife, his first novel. While in key ways a creature of its time in
Jul 01, 2009 Amy rated it it was amazing
Could not put this book down: it's an absolutely enthralling example of 1950s literary attempts to merge science and the paranormal. Right in line with the books Stir of Echoes and The Haunting of Hill House: dark, creepy, exciting, unorthodox, satisfying, short and simple. From my own study of HooDoo, quite well researched. Like those books, it also contains fascinating gender politics.

Favorite paragraph:
Then, in one instant of diabolic, paralyzing insight,he knew that this was sorcery. No mer
Norman is married to Tansy. "For a woman she was almost oddly free from irrationality." Ack. Eep. I had to put aside my irritation at sentences like that one, and my dislike for adverb abuse. "She hugged her cuddlingly." Really? Cuddlingly was necessary? Stop, Sarah. Stop. I shouldn't complain. For a book written by a man in 1943, the women in this novel are fairly well rounded, and hey, there's more than one. And there are some creepy, suspenseful scenes. I had to stop reading it at night.
I rea
Mauoijenn ~ *Mouthy Jenn* ~
This was a quick light read. A witch developing her powers and her husband not liking it one bit. It's rather funny in parts and kind of bland in others.
11811 (Eleven)
Feb 05, 2015 11811 (Eleven) rated it really liked it
I blew through this in one night. Why hasn't anyone ever told me to read this dude?
Sep 23, 2010 Henrik added it
Shelves: horror
I don't have time to write even a half-decent review, but I end up giving four stars and not five. The reason is quite simple, and some would say we're talking about a minor technicality here, but there is a time in the story (about halfway in) where the protagonist receives bits, snippets, of information from his wife, via mail... And I kept wondering why that was? It seemed a weird, unrealistic way for this to happen in the story.

I may have overlooked something here (I was often rather tired w
Matthew Hunter
I cannot exaggerate how much I enjoyed reading "Conjure Wife", my first encounter with Fritz Leiber. From the not-so-subtle foreshadowing of doom:

"Oh, it was a wonderful day all right, one of those days when reality becomes a succession of such bright and sharp images that you are afraid that any moment you will poke a hole in the gorgeous screen and glimpse the illimitable, unknown blackness it films; when everything seems so friendly and right that you tremble lest a sudden searing flash of in
Sep 29, 2016 Flavia rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Le donne sono tutte streghe. Punto.

Questo è l'assunto di Leiber in "Conjure Whife", ma, per l'amor del cielo, vade retro ogni tipo di femminismo. Qui non c'è traccia di misoginia o machismo d'antan, quanto piuttosto di un gioco divertito e divertente sul tema del famoso "sesto senso" femminile. Perchè se dietro ogni grande uomo c'è una grande donna, questo è perchè lei spende gran parte del suo tempo a proteggere il marito e propiziarne la carriera con rituali, feticci e incantesimi (altro tema
Shedrick Pittman-Hassett
From my blog:

Norman Saylor is that most-rational of men: the staid, college professor. He leads a relatively quiet life as an ethnosociologist at Hempnell College, a stereotypically conservative liberal arts school in New England. His wife, Tansy, is young, vivacious, and bit of a cipher for the other professor's wives in his social circle. If he's not well-liked by the other Hempnell faculty, he at least has their respect; though he secretly holds many of them and
Apr 21, 2013 Scott rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
All women are witches. Not in a bad way! Tansy Saylor uses her craft to protect and aid her liberal college professor Norman. But there are others who have darker, more selfish motives. When Norman convinces his wife that it's all just superstition, Tansy's enemies move in.

I liked parts of this a lot, but there were things that didn't make sense. Tansy knows her magic is real, so why does she give it up so easily? When she disappears one morning, how is it possible for Norman to receive a letter
J.M. Cornwell
May 02, 2013 J.M. Cornwell rated it it was amazing

One of these days I will have to sit down and figure out how many books I have chosen to read because of movies I've seen, and how many authors I have finally understood and enjoyed because I saw a movie made from the book first. Conjure Wife is one of the former since I didn't know that there was a book upon which the movie Burn, Witch Burn, which I first saw many moons ago, was based. 

Earlier this week when I read that Conjure Wife was indeed what the movie was based on, I had to read the book

Carolina Dean
Jun 08, 2011 Carolina Dean rated it really liked it
Considered a modern horror story for it's time, Conjure Wife reinvents the 'witch' as well educated women far removed from the green-skinned, hag of our collective imagination and allows her story to unfold on a modern university campus. The action begins fairly early in the book when Norman Saylor, a professor of ethnology, discovers his wife Tansy has put his research into "Negro Conjure Magic" into practice for the sake of protecting him from other spell casting faculty wives who wish to furt ...more
Paulo "paper books always" Carvalho
In my opinion this must have been a good novel at the time it was written. I imagined it had received good critics. But unfortunally reading it today I didn't felt connected to it.

First of all I think Leiber is an excelent writer. No doubt about it. But the plot suffered for what I call TimeLife. Maybe there is a term for it but I do not know it. My thoughts are these. Reading today in 2013, with hundreds of novels of urban fantasy avaiable this book fails to achieved it's goal. It's like most
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Classic Horror Lo...: Conjure Wife by Fritz Leiber *Spoilers* 24 56 Jun 06, 2013 08:25PM  
Making sense of what happened in Conjure Wife 3 28 May 03, 2013 04:26PM  
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Fritz Reuter Leiber, Jr. was one of the more interesting of the young writers who came into HP Lovecraft's orbit, and some of his best early short fiction is horror rather than sf or fantasy. He found his mature voice early in the first of the sword-and-sorcery adventures featuring the large sensitive barbarian Fafhrd and the small street-smart-ish Gray Mouser; he returned to this series at variou ...more
More about Fritz Leiber...

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“Certainly we’ve made important innovations, chief among them the systematic use of the scientific method,” he said at one point, “but the primitive groundwork is still there, dominating the pattern of our lives. We’re modified anthropoid apes inhabiting night clubs and battleships. What else could you expect us to be?” 4 likes
“Thoughts are dangerous, he told himself, and thoughts against all science, all sanity, all civilized intelligence, are the most dangerous of all. He felt their presence here and there in his brain, like pockets of poison, harmless as long as you left them encysted and did not prick them.” 3 likes
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