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The Witches: Salem, 1692

3.26  ·  Rating details ·  19,463 ratings  ·  2,872 reviews
The Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Cleopatra, the #1 national bestseller, unpacks the mystery of the Salem Witch Trials.

It began in 1692, over an exceptionally raw Massachusetts winter, when a minister's daughter began to scream and convulse. It ended less than a year later, but not before 19 men and women had been hanged and an elderly man crushed to death.

The panic sp
Kindle Edition, 513 pages
Published October 27th 2015 by Little, Brown and Company (first published October 20th 2015)
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Steven Belanger It seems exhaustively researched and detailed to me. Also researched were everyone involved, their writings, their motivations, etc. I found it very d…moreIt seems exhaustively researched and detailed to me. Also researched were everyone involved, their writings, their motivations, etc. I found it very dense, but in a good way. Loved it! Yes, its winds are all-enveloping, but they never spun out of control, and they revolved around a very specific and defined eye. I started a novel based on the Elizabeth Colson passage. Tries to ground the hysteria in a what-it-must-have-felt-like fashion, for everyone involved. Paints images and stays away from dryness, and attempts to personalize the names on the old, dusty pages. I gave it 5 stars and I'm sorry I couldn't give it more.(less)
♥ Marlene♥ I googled and on wiki I found this: Users are able to nominate books of their choosing, released in the given year. The final voting round collects th…moreI googled and on wiki I found this: Users are able to nominate books of their choosing, released in the given year. The final voting round collects the top ten books from 20 different categories.

This does not ring true because I visit GR every day and I have never been asked to vote for books so they can be picked for this contest.(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
Miranda Reads
Dec 11, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobook

When you predicted an apocalypse, you needed sooner or later to produce one.
Stacy Schiff attempts to provide a coherent review of an incoherent time.
IN 1692 THE Massachusetts Bay Colony executed fourteen women, five men, and two dogs for witchcraft.
Salem, Massachusetts is infamous even today for being the location of the most publicized witch hunts in America.

Schiff delves into records, unearths personal journals and interviews experts of today in an attempt to explain how neighbors, fr
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
Dec 07, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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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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  ·  review of another edition
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 yo
Jan 29, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
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
Felice Laverne
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
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. ...more
The Colonial
Oct 26, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The nightmarish and—in almost all circumstances—ridiculous superstitions that were carried over from the Old World to the colony of Massachusetts are brilliantly discussed in historian Stacy Schiff’s retelling of the Salem Witch Trials. By using a multitude of late-seventeenth century primary source materials from the innocent, guilty, accusers, defendants, clergymen, and townspeople alike, Schiff’s narrative travels in the shape of a figure eight. Indeed, the text flows evenly and agreeably, wh ...more
Joy D
Author Stacy Schiff digs deep into the historical records to provide a detailed account of the 1692 Salem witchcraft trials. This book explains what led a community to execute 14 women, 5 men, and 2 dogs. Schiff’s account is thorough. She follows each person, in chronological order, from being accused through indictment, trial, and punishment.

Schiff intermixes facts with the fabrications of the participants. For the majority of the book, she focuses more on what happened than why. These last fe
Bob Schnell
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  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Feb 22, 2021 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Parts enthralling, parts cumbersome. Schiff dazzles, and then she overwhelms. Sometimes it's quite exasperating. She throws around countless references - without further elaboration on the meaning. And then is overly detailed about the dozens of people who it is hard to keep track of. But the rewards...Schiff recreates the times of the Salem Witch Trials in a way that makes you feel that you are there and you feel close to understanding them as a people from our American past.And while she can b ...more
Cinzia DuBois

I’m in agreement with other 2 star reviewers of this book. A lack of thesis and bizarrely scatty yet overly detailed, dry writing isn’t an enticing combination. I’ll have to find a better book about the Salem Witch trials. If you’re interested in reading a good book about witch-hunting, read Goodare’s ‘The European Witch-hunt’

I only gave it two stars to credit the author's extensive research. This may be a useful research reference book for someone writing a dissertation on the subject. Just
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
"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
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. ...more
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. ...more
Ron Charles
A special 6-second video review:

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
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
Jul 26, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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,
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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

Articles featuring this book

There is nothing like reading a history or biography book and being so completely transported to another time and place that you find...
76 likes · 24 comments
“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.” 16 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?” 14 likes
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