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The Witches: Salem, 1692

3.14  ·  Rating details ·  11,649 Ratings  ·  2,166 Reviews
Pulitzer Prize winner Stacy Schiff, author of the #1 bestseller Cleopatra, provides an electrifying, fresh view of the Salem witch trials.

The panic began early in 1692, over an exceptionally raw Massachusetts winter, when a minister's niece began to writhe and roar. It spread quickly, confounding the most educated men and prominent politicians in the colony. Neighbors accu
Hardcover, 498 pages
Published October 27th 2015 by Little, Brown and Company (first published October 20th 2015)
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Sharon Miller This is a non-fiction work of History. Any equivocation on that point is a speculative journey into genre that seems to betray a good understanding of…moreThis is a non-fiction work of History. Any equivocation on that point is a speculative journey into genre that seems to betray a good understanding of what fiction and non-fiction are. Most works of history cross over into literary constructions, that is how narrative works, but that doesn't mean it is fiction. While it has been unfavorably reviewed in many places, including the New York Times, many prominent historians admired this book. (less)
Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship Since this book is not popular with those of us who've actually read it (down to around 3.3 now, and something like 2.4 on Amazon), I'm guessing it's…moreSince this book is not popular with those of us who've actually read it (down to around 3.3 now, and something like 2.4 on Amazon), I'm guessing it's fans of the author who haven't read the book yet. Her book about Cleopatra was very popular.(less)

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Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship
This book, a historical account of the Salem witch trials by an author whose prior work has been highly acclaimed, turned out to be a long-winded and tedious disappointment. I regret the many hours I spent slogging through it.

Schiff takes a textbook-like approach to the writing, throwing facts and assertions at the reader without connecting them through any meaningful narrative. We learn little about the accusers and victims; those curious about the lives, personalities, and motivations of the p
Dec 19, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
I have really been into non-fiction lately, and this is a TOME ladies and gentlemen. Impeccably researched, sometimes to it's fault, but fascinating and depressing at the same time. I particularly loved how I could really place myself in the world of 17th century America. And it is weirdly reflective of our culture right now in some ways? Where you see a whole society swept up in a fevor of attacking each other, against all logic. Truth was malleable, and innocent people were killed. It goes to ...more
Oct 13, 2015 marked it as to-read
i'm still chipping away at this book, but sean of the house decided he wanted to read it, too, so there's been a bit of a tug-o-war going on, but as soon as he turns his back, it's MINE again!

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Dec 07, 2015 rated it really liked it
There’s probably no event in American history that looms so large in proportion to its size and impact than the Salem Witch Trials of 1692-93. All told, in less than a year, some 185 people in Salem were accused of witchcraft; there were 59 trials; of those trials there were 31 convictions; and of those convictions, nineteen people were hanged. (Giles Corey was pressed to death. There were no burnings).

In the grim mathematics of history, twenty deaths over the course of several months is not ex
1 star to Stacy Schiff's The Witches: Salem, 1692. It is rare that I cannot finish a book especially when it's on a topic that I find fascinating, but after multiple attempts, I can't leave this sit on my night-table any longer. It mocks me because it has won...

The Salem Witch Trials are such an historic part of our country, and I've read numerous articles or viewed multiple TV shows or movies depicting this time period; however, this book fell short in capturing my attention. I'm sure for the r
Jan 18, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobook
From a period of time so fraught with scandal and religious ferocity, Stacy Schiff is able to construct a powerful and well-paced book that offers readers insight into the Salem Witch Trials of 1692. Admitting from the outset that much of the stereotypical views of witches--their pointy hats, bubbling cauldrons, warty chins, and evil cackles--was formulated much later by fiction writers, Schiff tries to get to the core of events in colonial New England and provide the reader with everything need ...more
The Salem witch trials is a fascinating subject, but I found this book to be a bit frustrating. I had enjoyed Stacy Schiff's previous work, Cleopatra, and was excited when I heard she was researching the infamous witch hunt of 1692.

However, The Witches is maddeningly detailed and excessively footnoted, and I think it's a case where Schiff couldn't see the forest for the trees. The best parts of the book were Chapter 1, in which Schiff wrote a good summary of the mass hysteria that happened in c
Feb 13, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2016-challenge

In "The Witches: Salem, 1692", Stacy Schiff provides a thorough exposition of what happened during the Salem, Massachusetts witch frenzy of 1692. The trouble seems to have begun when two young girls, Abigail Williams and Betty Parris, took to twitching, convulsing, yipping, rolling around on the floor, being bitten, pinched, and pricked by spectral creatures, and so on. The attention this garnered the 'afflicted' young ladies soon inspired other girls to exhibit the same symptoms. The stricken y
Jan 29, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: read-in-2016
It felt like this book would never end.


I like nonfiction, I love historical nonfiction. I also love details. Give me lots and lots of details and send me hopping down the rabbit hole on a research adventure and I'm a happy girl.

What I don't like is constant repetition of said details and nearly obsessive reiteration of scant sources that makes their scantiness blazingly obvious. I also don't want to hear over and over again how little there was to work with. I think it was primarily this last
stacy shiff has won many awards for her previous biographies/history, so i was really looking forward to this book. what a major disappointment! right from the very beginning, the writing was clunky and awkward, and never had any flow to it at all.

and then she calmly describes women riding broomsticks as if it really happened. for example, "ann foster sailed above the treetops, over fields and fences, on a pole". she describes scenes like this as if they were historical fact.

on top of this, the
Sep 30, 2015 rated it it was ok
I feel like I missed something reading this book. Namely, the point. That might be because there is no point, or perhaps I did just miss it in some way. I expected this book to be like pretty much all history books, with an introduction and a thesis, something the author was trying to prove. I assumed (silly me) that the thesis of this book would have to do with what caused the trials. Was it a fungus on the bread, schizophrenia, or just bored girls? I think I just have missed it, because I neve ...more
Here are three things I know:

1. The Puritans were weirdos. Everything with them was witches. Everything. My notes are missing. IT WAS A WITCH. My daughter is moody. SHE’S A WITCH. My dog barfed on my rug. WIIIITCH!!!!!
2. The airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow (European) is roughly 24 miles per hour.
3. I did not like this book.

I really don’t want to spend much time talking about this book because, a) I started (and finally finished) it so long ago that I barely remember why I disliked it so
Bob Schnell
Sep 08, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: history, read-in-2015
Advanced Reading Copy Review Due to be published October 27, 2015

Consider this a 3.5 star review.

Just in time for Halloween comes this expansive history of the Salem witch trials, the back story and the fallout. I can only say that I am exceedingly happy that I did not have to live in New England in 1692. Stacy Schiff brings the period to life, exposing the conditions and atmosphere that made Salem ripe for mass hysteria, paranoia and poor judgement. It was not a time for the weak of mind or con
Dec 12, 2015 rated it really liked it
In 1692, while much of Europe was reeling under the murderous deeds of the Inquisition, it would be on the other side of the Atlantic were the Puritans of New England in America would have there own 'dance with evil'. It all began in the village of Salem in Massachusetts, when the daughter and niece of clergyman, Reverend Samuel Parris, started convulsing and having fits. After being examined by a local doctor, the only possible explanation was that the girls conditions were likely caused by wit ...more
Aug 17, 2015 rated it liked it
Yesterday my husband saw me with this book, and said, "You can't still be reading that. You've been at it for more than a month." I was lucky enough to get an ARC from Little Brown through a giveaway listed on Shelf Awareness, making me grateful enough to read every word of this book, or I might have given up on it.

However, as I slogged my way through it, I found parts of it very interesting. I am completely, totally fascinated with the Salem witch trials. I have read a lot of books about it, an
Received through FirstReads giveaway...In the past, I've found that accounts of the Salem witch trials all sound the same, with little life. This book contains so much detail, yet never becomes tedious, which is not an easy thing. It was nice to actually learn about the people as more than names, which is all that they are in most writing on this subject.
The Witches offers a somewhat compelling narrative telling of the Salem witch trials, but it fails to present any criticism or analysis. Schiff seems duty-bound to discuss only the facts of the case that have come down to us through the years - a difficult task given that most of the records from 1692 seem to have mysteriously vanished - and that means that she offers little interpretation or theories about what actually happened. This makes The Witches an atmospheric but ultimately frustrating ...more
I'm ditching this for now. I thought it was fiction, my fault. Also, I just finished reading the excellent Go Down Together: The True, Untold Story of Bonnie and Clyde via audio, which was an exciting and informative non-fiction story. This, at least so far, is not. I may try it again at another time. DNF, no review or rating.
I have never read this author's previous books, but have to say that I probably won't read any of her other works if they are set up like this. History is a dry subject, but the way this was structured made it even more in my opinion.

Stacy Schiff takes a look at Salem, Massachusetts during it's witch hysteria in 1962. She starts off the book with all of the people/persons affected by the charges of witchcraft. From there, she lost me. Probably because it was just pages and pages of people I did
Jane Kamensky's review in the NYT says it all for me: I teach a graduate class on early modern witchcraft trials, and there are many wonderful books on the topic. This is not one of them.
"The Witches: Salem, 1692" by Stacy Schiff is *obviously* a very well researched book. I found the beginning half of this book to be very interesting, especially since there's frequent mention of the contentiousness of the young teenage and pre-teen girls in Salem, 1692 - in the court records as accusers and as suspects. Since a pre-teen girl just happened to be running around my house, being periodically contentious I came away from reading this wondering how on earth the entire colony ending u ...more
Navidad Thelamour
Dec 27, 2015 rated it did not like it
I’m sorry to say that this one nearly bored me to tears (yes, literal and actual tears), which is a far cry from what I’d expected—and what Miss Schiff’s previous prize-winner, Cleopatra, invoked in me during the reading of it. I was ever so excited to start this one because I’d SO enjoyed Cleopatra—that one had me turning pages faster than any fiction thriller ever has and literally brought me to tears in the end—definitely the kind of roller coaster read that we all yearn for but wouldn’t drea ...more
Jul 26, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Thorough non-fiction detailing the Salem Witch Trials of 1692 and the time period and society right before and after.

A lot of what was discussed are actual transcripts of the the trials, what still exists anyway. Lots of listing of the individuals accused and the accusations put forth against them. It was a little dry for what I was expecting, but still a good read! It was very detailed and I appreciated that and all the research that must have gone into compiling all of it. I liked this book,
Nov 18, 2015 rated it it was ok
it's meandering, heavily worded, superfluous style turned me off almost immediately. it's not clearly written at all and is a poor source of education on this topic. after 20 pages of this book, I feel like I know less than I did before.

it's a shame that her style of writing gets in the way so bad. this book is probably great in its own way due to how much research was done. her writing style completely throws me off, especially since English isn't my first language. I don't think I'll try this
Tom Mathews
Sep 21, 2015 marked it as to-read
I'm curious about this book albeit a little leery. My 9x great grandmother and her sister died when people of Salem started making up their own version of the truth. and I'm not sure I want to see them put through it again.
Dec 09, 2015 rated it it was ok
I'm going to stop reading after putting in a couple of hours of listening to the audiobook. Because:
1. I don't really like Eliza Foss's narration. It's sort of cloying and whimsical. Puritans and witch trials are not whimsical! It was also becoming one of those audios that kept throwing off my attention, and I'd find myself focusing on my next meal rather than the story.
2. Why was I reading this -am I becoming a slavish devotee of the new? - while unread on my shelves sits my carefully archived
Oct 18, 2015 rated it really liked it
The Salem witch trials are often discussed as a quintessentially American phenomenon. Oh, those New England Puritans! So repressed, so obsessive, so afraid of anything that smacked of pleasure or magic or sex! No wonder they went nuts in 1692 and purged nearly two dozen of their own.

But one of the key facts that Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Stacy Schiff makes sure readers keep in mind throughout this absorbing and unsettling new book is that the residents of Salem Village were not American.
Carolina Casas
I would classify this as one of the best books I've read in 2015, because it is so vivid and so well researched that you are transported back to 1692 and beyond. The books is more than just about the witches and warlocks that plagued the poor, young victims of Salem, but about the justice system and the beliefs that were involved in the proceedings. Nearly a century later, one of the founding fathers (John Adams) would refer to the incident as one of the most shameful chapters in American histor ...more
Nov 29, 2015 rated it it was amazing
For anyone interested in American history, especially the history of the Puritans and the infamous Salem witch trials, The Witches should not be missed. You should seriously immediately put this book on reserve at your local library or download it to your e-reader or go online or to your local bookstore and purchase it. You are depriving yourself of tremendous pleasure by not reading The Witches at this very moment.

It is a stupendously amazing account of the Salem witch trials, and it provides,
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Stacy Schiff is the author of Véra (Mrs. Vladimir Nabokov), winner of the Pulitzer Prize; Saint-Exupéry, a Pulitzer Prize finalist; and A Great Improvisation: Franklin, France, and the Birth of America, winner of the George Washington Book Prize, the Ambassador Award in American Studies, and the Gilbert Chinard Prize of the Institut Français d'Amérique. All three were New York Times Notable Books; ...more
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“We all subscribe to preposterous beliefs; we just don’t know yet which ones they are. We too have been known to prefer plot to truth; to deny the evidence before us in favor of the ideas behind us; to do insane things in the name of reason; to take that satisfying step from the righteous to the self-righteous; to drown our private guilts in a public well; to indulge in a little delusion.” 11 likes
“Faith aside, witchcraft served an eminently useful purpose. The aggravating, the confounding, the humiliating all dissolved in its cauldron. It made sense of the unfortunate and the eerie, the sick child and the rancid butter along with the killer cat. What else, shrugged one husband, could have caused the black and blue marks on his wife’s arm?” 10 likes
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