the cast of people involved in schiff's book easily rivals that of a tolstoy epic! it's a lot to keep track of. unlike my experience with tolstoy, 'withe cast of people involved in schiff's book easily rivals that of a tolstoy epic! it's a lot to keep track of. unlike my experience with tolstoy, 'witches' can get very weighed down by the people coming and going, who's related, who's slighted by... etc. the flow of 'the witches' is not great. and although the history is covered, it's all so very clunky. conveniently, it seems men acted in cahoots to destroy certain records from that time, so some things will remain unknown. jerks! ;)
not too much was new to me, even though my knowledge was not terribly deep to begin with. basically, the puritans were whacked, and the witch trials were a total sham. innocent people were executed, people (children) admitted lying and making up stories and, save for one guy, none of the men leading or involved in the hearings took ownership or responsibility for the terrible processes and outcomes. at the very end of the book, schiff writes about conversion disorder in relation to the witch trials' accusers. this bit was interesting, but there is no tidy explanation for what went on in 1692. the whole thing was completely ridiculous and so, so sad.
overall, reading this book just felt like reading a very wordy and awkward timeline. what helped me get through this book was the fact i paired it with ami mckay's new novel, The Witches of New York. there was a tiny bit of overlap, and the fictional whimsy helped me continue on with schiff's nonfiction.... mess. (sorry!)
while interesting and beautifully written/insightful at times, this is a bit of an odd book. a young chinese woman experiences her own awakening whilewhile interesting and beautifully written/insightful at times, this is a bit of an odd book. a young chinese woman experiences her own awakening while away at school in london to study the english language. her naïveté felt frustrating at moments, along with how easily she trusted strangers, putting herself into what could have been potentially dangerous situations. i found myself going 'yeah, but...!?!' throughout this book. but, london provides a huge contrast/shock for the character ("Z"), coming from a sheltered life with limited exposures in her communist country. the style of the writing was something i spent a lot of time considering, as it was supposed to be reflecting Z's improving fluency with english. sentences were not grammatically correct and broken (like: “Maybe I not need feeling lonely, because I can talk to other "me." Is like seeing my two pieces of lips speaking in two languages at same time. Yes, I not lonely, because I with another me. Like Austin Powers with his Mini Me” . though sometimes it could be humourous: “I thought English is a strange language. Now I think French is even more strange. In France, their fish is poisson, their bread is pain, and their pancake is crepe. Pain and poison and crap. That's what they have every day.”) but i did question it - was this authentic feeling to chinese readers who have learned english? was this a reflection of the author's own experience? reviews are mixed on this point. and i am left feeling mixed about this read.
this was an interesting read - and not my usual fare. i was drawn to brown's books because of her work as a research-based sociologist. i was hoping tthis was an interesting read - and not my usual fare. i was drawn to brown's books because of her work as a research-based sociologist. i was hoping that i could engage with that and not be exposed to too much airy-fairy-ness (sorry!). i like practical, evidence-based information. mostly the read was fine, but it did teeter a bit too much into 'feel-good-ness', and personal territory. anecdotal references can be very interesting while helping show theories and evidence. but i found things got a bit repetitive, particularly around one of brown's own personal stories. granted, it was an important one in her life, it still felt overused by the end of the book. i maybe did this reading wrong in starting with this book (i think it's her third in this 'series', The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You're Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are and Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead being the earlier two). brown references back to these previous works often - something i did find a bit distracting. i also think my timing on this read a little funny -- taken through the lens of the 2016 american election and that GOP crapstorm, reading with that slant on the book was impossible to avoid.