Stacey's Reviews > The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane

The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe
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Jun 12, 11

bookshelves: borrowed-from-library, books-by-women, imo
Read from May 31 to June 10, 2011

I sometimes wonder about why I review, and whether I enjoy reading less because of reading more critically. I think a closer reading of some things can enhance the experience, but fiction? Especially pop fiction? Maybe it takes some of the fun out of it. 

I think I might have enjoyed this book more as a "beach read," where I just read and don't think. Maybe not. Maybe I'm not even capable of that.

Or maybe it's just that as I get older, I get crankier, and less tolerant of stupidity, and women in fiction who turn out to be more foolish than they need to be, to drive the story along.

The main character, though highly educated, and apparently intelligent and curious, seems unexpectedly ignorant of an awful lot that should have been part of her studies. She's surprised at the biblical names, (doesn't know what tetragrammaton is?!) she's  unaware of alternate spellings, takes FOREVER to figure out that a woman who writes in her diary about delivering babies is, in fact, a midwife. (*facepalm*) 

And what is it with the braid tugging? Is this some kind of authorial euphemism of which I'm unaware? Because it's damn irritating the frequency at which braid tugging pops up in fiction, (not just this one!) even in contemporary settings. 

I see this a lot with debut authors, this compulsion where they think they're setting the scene, or bringing a character to life, so they'll include cleverisms like tickling her nose with her braid end, sucking her bottom lip under her top teeth, or clicking her beer can pull-tab with her thumb. Not that a good writer will exclude these details, it just seems that an inexperienced writer sometimes peppers a manuscript with these character quirks, without considering whether it's germane to either story or character. And the cumulative effect is frequently one of burying the story under the sheer excess of "clever" details.

In this case, it added to the effect of dumbing down a character who could easily have been presented as flawed, but still smart and capable.

But the thing that made me the crankiest of all was her apparent obsession with the New England accent. She beats us over the head with phonetic spellings, to the point, sometimes, of obscuring the dialogue. 

"And that Peter Petfahd, he is shah desput and distracted."

"Pretty hahd to find, yoah house. Even Officah Litchman and I had trouble, and we live in Mahblehead."

"no sign of fawced entry."

"Pretty weahd he wouldn'ta scared 'em off."

That's not to say the book was all bad, in spite of these difficulties, I enjoyed the story, and the idea of a treasure hunt. I liked the way the fantasy elements were woven into a contemporary story, and I especially liked that the author didn't slaughter known historical facts and dates to make them fit her story. 

In the sections where the story was advancing quickly, the over-attention to detail is abandoned in favor of good, strong writing, and made up for my frustrations with the phonetic dialogue, and the detail explosions.

I wish there were more authors writing smart stories set in early colonial America, and I have a particular affection for writings about the colonial witch panic. As such, Deliverance Dane is a decent "historical" fantasy entry in this category.
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Comments (showing 1-7 of 7) (7 new)

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message 1: by Checkman (new) - added it

Checkman Picked this up for 50 cents at the local library. SOunds mildly interesting and I'm a history buff so I'm going to give it a try. A little different for me, but what the heck. Plus I support our library this way.


Stacey Good luck. :) I did say she didn't slaughter the history, not that it was fit for a history buff. Ha! I love the library store! I usually find something good there.


message 3: by Checkman (new) - added it

Checkman some of the books that I have found for sale at our local library are impressive. Especially when a senior has passed away and the descendents donate their books to the library. Fantastic finds at times and for 50 cents a piece it can't be beat.


Stacey Yup. When I kick the bucket, somebody is going to have a heck of a good time at the library donations store. :)


message 5: by Checkman (new) - added it

Checkman Stacey wrote: "Yup. When I kick the bucket, somebody is going to have a heck of a good time at the library donations store. :)"

Same here. They'll get a hernia moving my books to the library. I'm a lifelong fan of the coffee table book.Remember when those books were all the rage? I have many of those giant oversized books. They might not be real heavy on content, but they sure are pretty to look at.


Stacey Ooh yes, I'm a fan of coffee table books but can never bring myself to buy them.


message 7: by Checkman (last edited Mar 19, 2014 02:33PM) (new) - added it

Checkman Stacey wrote: "Ooh yes, I'm a fan of coffee table books but can never bring myself to buy them."

Again I'm a cheap book-buyer. Library sales, yard sales, gifting from family members and back in the eighties ,when I was a student at Boise State, the university bookstore would have pretty good sales on books. Clearance sales which often featured coffee table books. Go figure because we all know how pricey college textbooks are.But the BSU bookstore was great for sales on books that weren't textbooks. Don't know if that's still the case.


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