Misfit's Reviews > Daughters of the Witching Hill

Daughters of the Witching Hill by Mary Sharratt
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's review
Mar 06, 10

bookshelves: historical-fiction, get-it-from-the-library, one-time-read-only
Read in March, 2010

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 well as her grandson Jamie and granddaughter Alizon gain imps/familiars and begin casting *spells* of their own, although Anne and Jamie eventually turn to the dark side in their desire to cause harm to those who wish ill of them. Years pass and James I gains the throne and he’s hell-bent on destroying the Catholic faith for good, as well as persecuting witches. Of course ambitious magistrates jump at the chance to prosecute any likely suspect to gain the king’s notice.

Well that sounds for an interesting novel, especially as the book is based upon actual events and people, just Google Pendle Forest and witches and you'll find plenty of reading material and photos. My two cents? I loved the idea and at first I was gung ho getting into the book and looking up the places online and dreaming of a trip to Lancashire and seeing it for myself. Eventually though I ran into a quagmire - much of the book goes on and on and on (and on some more) detailing about Bess and Alizon's day to day life and interaction with their familiars as well as all those *clay pictures* (think voodoo dolls). I would have preferred to hear more about the arrests and trials themselves as well as Alice Nutter, the devout catholic who was caught up in the witch-hunt.

I'm not a huge fan of the first person narrative used in this book (first Bess' POV and finishing up with Alizon), and I felt it hampered the story a bit in the latter part of the book when Alizon is sitting in prison and we can't see what's happening outside of those walls. At the end, I just didn’t pick up on the terror those accused must have felt, nor much of the mass hysteria there must have been among the townspeople. A list of character names and relationships would also have been helpful, especially as some are referred to with different names - either call Anne Anne or call her Chattox, but don't go switching back and forth - very distracting. In the end, the author just took too much time on blessings, dolls and familiars and not enough time on the trials themselves. This is a good book, it just not a great one. 3/5 stars.
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Reading Progress

03/03/2010 page 17
4.83% "" 4 comments
03/03/2010 page 45
12.78% "Bess suddenly has powers to charm and heal. Not quite sure what the large brown dog has to do with it."
03/03/2010 page 75
21.31% "Roughlee Hall home of Alice Nutters " 3 comments
03/05/2010 page 193
54.83% "These clay dolls and familiars are getting to be a bit too much. I want to move on to the trials and hysteria already."
03/05/2010 page 303
86.08% "The author has hemmed herself in a bit with the first person narrative."
03/06/2010 page 306
86.93% "The assizes begin. Took long enough. [image error]"

Comments (showing 1-50 of 53) (53 new)

Allie I am jealous! I have this one on preorder! I am intersted to see what you think! I REALLY liked The Vanishing Point by her and I hope this one lives up to that one!

message 2: by Misfit (last edited Mar 03, 2010 11:40AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Misfit It's funny, I didn't care all that much for VP and I didn't realize it was the same author when I got it off Vine. Sounds interesting though.

It looks like the setting will have lots of historical places I can put pics of on my reading updates. Woohoo.

message 3: by Claire (new)

Claire Is this the same Pendle Witch story as in Mist Over Pendle? I have just been to a Pendle Witch Beer Festival in Colne,

Misfit I'd never heard of this story before this book. It is set in Pendle Forest. Looks like they have quite a tourist attraction going on there from the brief googling I did.

message 5: by Claire (new)

Claire yes everything possible has witches on it,

message 6: by Moppet (new)

Moppet Misfit wrote: "I'd never heard of this story before this book. It is set in Pendle Forest. Looks like they have quite a tourist attraction going on there from the brief googling I did."

I grew up in Pendle and still have family there. Yes, there are plenty of tourists despite the weather which tends towards the wet. Extremely beautiful countryside and wonderful walks. Also very close to Bronte country - Haworth is about 20 mins away by car.

And yes, it's the same story as Mist over Pendle.

Misfit Thanks Miss M. I'd love to go there and from what I'm reading on the net it sounds like England's version of Salem Massachussetts (sp?).

message 8: by Claire (new)

Claire When you have your retirement trip put it on the list.

message 9: by Moppet (new)

Moppet Misfit wrote: "Thanks Miss M. I'd love to go there and from what I'm reading on the net it sounds like England's version of Salem Massachussetts (sp?)."

There is a theory the women weren't witches but Catholics who were meeting up in secret to hear Mass. I've never really looked into it so couldn't say one way or the other.

Misfit What's interesting is the MC first begins spinning "charms", part of which she mutters off parts of old catholic prayers (or similar). I believe one of the other characters to be accused is a woman who was Catholic and she and her husband sheltered catholic priests in their home at times. That home was Roughlee Hall.

message 11: by Moppet (new)

Moppet There are houses with "priest holes" all over Lancashire, it was an area where a lot of people held to Catholicism. Another one is Gawthorpe Hall, a few miles away:


Misfit Gawthorpe Hall has been mentioned in this book already.

[image error]

Another creepy looking house.

message 13: by Moppet (new)

Moppet Misfit wrote: "Gawthorpe Hall has been mentioned in this book already.

Another creepy looking house."

It looks a bit looming in that photo but actually it is a lovely house. Very similar in design to Hardwick Hall, built by Bess of Hardwick, but on a smaller scale. Charlotte Bronte stayed there.

message 14: by Moppet (last edited Mar 04, 2010 02:58PM) (new)

Moppet Found a picture of the back garden:

At the very far right of the picture, see the stone thing at the end of the avenue which looks like a gate? Actually a stone Gothic seat - perfect place to spend an afternoon reading.

Misfit Oh cool, thank you. What gorgeous country.

message 16: by Elizabeth (new)

Elizabeth I absolutely loved The Vanishing Point, so I'm in a different ball park to you on that one Misfit. I loved the use of the language, the mystery, everything about it. I've read the new one and did enjoy it, but it wasn't in the same league as TVP for me - but that's because I consider TVP exceptional.
The author lives in the Pendle area. Worth the read IMO.

Allie hmm I will def still read it, but now I least know what to expect and my hopes aren't as high. I love all the pictures. Thanks for your opinion too Elizabeth, expecially considering that I also thought TVP was exceptional!!

Misfit I'm looking forward to other opinions and I know Tara plans on reading it as well. TVP was not a winner for me either though.

I love sharing the pics of places on GR, it really improves the whole experience.

message 19: by Tara (new)

Tara Chevrestt Excellent review. I'm having some doubts about it now tho.. imps? What the heck? Sounds like a little too much "magic" for me. Neverthess, it appears I have won a bidding fest on ebay and now I shall have to read it unless someone oubids me in the next 22 minutes. Oh woe is me! LOL

Misfit According to the author's notes *imps* or *familiars* or some sort of little spirits were quite common here, at least according to folklore.

message 21: by Tara (new)

Tara Chevrestt I have read a few "witch" books but haven't run across imps. At least they come in the form of dogs.. I should be able to handle it then. LOL

message 22: by Barb (new) - rated it 4 stars

Barb I just finished this book this morning. I liked it and thought it was well done. I don't care much for fantasy/magic themes in novels but I thought Mary Sharratt did an excellent job of showing the similarity between Catholicism and the faith of the accused witches. I like the first person point of view in novels, I'd give this one 3.5 stars, review to come...

Misfit Barb wrote: "I just finished this book this morning. I liked it and thought it was well done. I don't care much for fantasy/magic themes in novels but I thought Mary Sharratt did an excellent job of showing t..."

Looking forward to it.

message 24: by Elizabeth (new)

Elizabeth I thought the fantasy/magic themes were well done too. The author integrated them into the rhythm of daily life in a believable way.
There's a youtube video up about the story http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KT-In0...
The resolution is a tad fuzzy which is a shame because the content is excellent - except the historical characters speak with American accents. This is a bit strange to me because I hale by birthright from not far from the Pendle area, and I'd like to have seen a native accent in narration. But if it's for global audience, I guess no one will notice, or mind.

message 25: by Barb (new) - rated it 4 stars

Barb Elizabeth,
Thanks for sharing, that was fun to watch.

Misfit Thanks EC. Will have to wait until I get home to watch. Must head off to work and You Tube is a no-no there :/

message 27: by Tara (new)

Tara Chevrestt I would watch it, but wouldn't understand it. They don't close caption you tube. LOL. Hm.. I am now starting to look forward to reading it again tho..

message 28: by Barb (new) - rated it 4 stars

Barb Bummer about not having close caption for You Tube.

Misfit Barb wrote: "Bummer about not having close caption for You Tube."

There are quite a lot of things we take for granted, aren't there?

message 30: by Barb (new) - rated it 4 stars

Barb Very much so...

message 31: by Tara (new)

Tara Chevrestt I would love to write the president about getting close captioning in movie theaters.. I cannot just go and enjoy a movie. I have to wait for it to come out on dvd. They should get close captioned movie theaters in every major city.

message 32: by Barb (new) - rated it 4 stars

Barb Wow, we don't go to the movies very often, maybe once or twice a year but what a bummer not to be able to go...I encourage you to write to someone...

Misfit Looking forward to seeing Barb's review. How curious that *someone* is slapping my three star with negative votes and *someone* is slapping the glowing five star with positives.

message 34: by Tara (new)

Tara Chevrestt Must be a fan club, Misfit. You know something tho? It pisses me off that people get so nasty over three star ratings. Three stars means the book was OK!

message 35: by Barb (new) - rated it 4 stars

Barb Here three stars means you like it, Ammy's three stars means you thought it was okay. I always adjust my stars depending on where I am.

message 36: by Tara (new)

Tara Chevrestt Oh that would get too confusing for me. LOL. Three stars from me means it is ok. Whatever website I am on. It's ok. I'm not jumping for joy over it but it's ok. LOL. People on Amazon take three stars as an insult. I don't understand it.

message 37: by Barb (new) - rated it 4 stars

Barb A lot of people on Ammy need to get over themselves...

message 38: by Tara (new)

Tara Chevrestt I quit using it a month ago and no regrets. :)

Misfit I'm not picking up negs on any other review except for this one, so it's not my trollette come back to bother me again. The five star picks up possies in the same quantity that I pick up the negatives.

message 40: by Barb (new) - rated it 4 stars

Barb I wish there was some way for them to stop that from happening...it's so annoying...it's NOT Agreeazon!

Misfit Barb wrote: "I wish there was some way for them to stop that from happening...it's so annoying...it's NOT Agreeazon!"

An hour later and another round of voters has been through, one possie and a negative for me. Almost as much fun as watching the quickness of the negative votes on all of our comments of my Amazon review of The King's Daughter.

message 42: by Claire (new)

Claire I gave a positive vote, it was a helpful review.

Misfit Thanks Claire.

message 44: by Claire (new)

Claire Do the votes matter?

Misfit Claire wrote: "Do the votes matter?"

In the grand scheme of all things Amazon not really, although too many negatives can affect one's ranking. It's just maddening is all when people vote a review not helpful just because they don't agree with your opinion.

message 46: by Barb (new) - rated it 4 stars

Barb Sometimes the negative votes hurt your feelings

Misfit Barb wrote: "Sometimes the negative votes hurt your feelings

Yeah, knock wood and hope you never get picked up by a negative troll. I was stuck with one for almost two years I could post a review and within 30 minutes get socked with negative votes. It finally let up when they revamped all the rankings but for a while she still hit all my lists with massive negs and that's why my percentage approval is so crappy.

message 48: by Barb (new) - rated it 4 stars

Barb Sometimes I think I have one already...

Misfit Barb wrote: "Sometimes I think I have one already..."

I hope you don't have the one I had. She's a tenacious devil....

I think lately though Barb we're more into p***ing off authors and their friends and not picking up trolls. Could be wrong though.

message 50: by Barb (last edited Mar 10, 2010 06:53PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Barb We call 'em as we see 'em.

I couldn't do it any other way.

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