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Crane Pond: A Novel of Salem

3.80  ·  Rating details ·  117 ratings  ·  20 reviews
Usually told from the perspective of the victims, the Salem Witch Trials are a forever story. The vestiges of a particular strain of American social hysteria remain with us even today. In Crane Pond, Richard Francis reveals a side of the history that is not often recounted, as he skillfully constructs a portrait of Samuel Sewall, the only judge to later admit that a terrible mi ...more
Paperback, 326 pages
Published October 4th 2016 by Europa Editions
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Dec 03, 2016 rated it it was amazing
“The greatest sin of all is to be without hope, because that is a denial of God.”
Among the best books I’ve read (and I’ve read a lot). And still, I’ve read little about the Salem witch trials, probably only skimmed The Crucible in high school. Sure, I knew these trials were a mockery and miscarriage of justice, but not how great until Crane Pond. I spent a great portion of the book shocked by what passed as evidence in the Puritan courtroom. I thought too about what now might be similar, w
Paul Bk
Oct 08, 2016 rated it really liked it
Crane Pond is a novel about the Salem witch trials. I suspect like many people my introduction to Salem was Miller's play 'The Crucible' (1953). Miller used Salem as an allegory in the era of McCarthyism illustrating how deeply these events at the birth of modern America resonate down the centuries. So Crane Pond is tackling an important piece of the American story.
The trials, which spread throughout the new colony, resulted in the execution of twenty people. Five more died in prison befor
Linda Hepworth
Jan 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing
When I was asked to review this novel about the Salem witch trials, I readily agreed because it is a period of history which has always fascinated me. However, I have to admit that I did wonder whether any author could possibly add anything new to this well known and often told story. I was delighted to discover that Richard Francis has done just that in this wonderful novel. He has done so by focusing on Samuel Sewell, a respected Boston merchant who was appointed to serve as one of the judges ...more
Oct 14, 2018 rated it liked it
Not a great work of fictionalised real-life events. The book does a great job at telling the story of the witch trials in Salem based on facts and actual data - I found the bits in which Francis uses information from the real trials extremely interesting. But...
Unfortunately the fictional writing around these facts was not too convincing: I wasn’t impressed with the writing, the narration felt quite flat, and I felt the characters were rather underdeveloped and uninteresting.
May 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
While I know some of the history of the 1692 Salem Witch Trials, Arthur Miller’s The Crucible still pops up in my mind whenever I see the Trials referenced. For those not familiar with the play, The Crucible focuses on the accused and their accusers to show how revenge-based hysteria can destroy a community. Many other accounts of the Trials also tend to focus on the accusers and the accused to try and understand what really happened. Crane Pond by Richard Francis, however, centers on one of the judges who condemne ...more
Erin Becker
Mar 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction, 2017
Marvelous historical fiction written by a man who really knows how to do his historical research. It's not common for writers of historical fiction to also have published non-fiction historical research about the time period. Francis published a non-fiction work about the Salem Witch Trials in 2005 ( and his expert knowledge about the topic shows clearly in this book.

In addition to his histor
Dec 04, 2016 rated it it was amazing
There’s only really one way to start this: Crane Pond is definitely on my best of 2016 list. The novel is incredibly quiet and introspective, perhaps the opposite of what you might expect from a story centered around the Salem Witch Trials, but made all the better from swerving away from that expectation. The descriptions of local family life are exquisite, and the internal self-reflection of Samuel Sewall is absolutely genius. This has already taken pride of place on my bookshelf, and that was only ...more
Sep 27, 2017 rated it liked it
Judge Samuel Sewall of Salem, Massachusetts is in a conundrum over the witch trials over which he and other judges are presiding. His Puritan faith and upright life tell him they are guilty, their actions and opinions of others tell him most are innocent of any wrongdoing. Set amidst a tumultuous time and dark place in our history, this novel places the reader right in the middle of the inner lives and families of the judges and the condemned, leaving much to ponder and learn from this tragedy.
Susan Zinner
Mar 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
Interesting book that considers the Salem witch trials from the perspective of one of the judges (as opposed to the typical view of one of the girls). We saw the judge and his beloved wife and family struggle to figure out why Satan is in their community and tormenting these girls. He ultimately realizes he has been duped and experiences some redemption at the end. Really good...
Gayla Bassham
Nov 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018-reads, fiction
Better than I expected. I found Francis's portrait of Samuel Sewall, a Salem witch trial judge who truly wants to do the right thing and fails miserably, to be pretty compelling and the writing well-done. I did find myself somewhat disappointed with the female characters, who seemed a bit underimagined to me.
Oct 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
“The crisis started as a children’s game and like a children’s game it had run its course and now the players have gone home to bed (except of course for the ones who died).”

A fascinating look at the madness of the Salem Witch Trials.
Lisa Hunt
Dec 03, 2016 rated it really liked it
This was very interesting and also one of the most unsettling books I've read. Really crazy time and truly frightening how such a frenzy took hold. I'll probably track down a non fiction account to learn more about it.
Mar 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is the best book I've read so far this year... a brilliant character study of one of the Salem witch judges.
My only complaint is that I really have no idea why the title is "Crane Pond."
Deborah Padgett
Jan 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: all
Excellent. Meaty. Revealing of the ongoing struggle humans undertake to define separateness and create society. Based on the real live Cotton Mather and Judge Sewell in Salem in the 1600’s.
Ronan Mcdonnell
Mar 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
I read it. I enjoyed it.

I'm just not sure of its purpose / message: the messiness of truth? Subjectivity is out only way to experience the world? Exoneration of the judges? Memorial to those who were killed? Examining whether even cruel and incorrect action can be done with honesty and integrity?

The problem is the book touched on these but never sounded them out by going beyond "a confused man does his best to live a good life in difficult circumstances"

I wond
Oct 06, 2017 rated it liked it
There's nothing wrong with this book, it deals with the Salem trials in an undramatic, factual kind of way... Unfortunately, I didn't really feel any real interest in the characters.
I couldn't stand the way this was written, so I unfortunately couldn't finish this.
DNF. I know this book has gotten rave reviews, and if you are one of the many who enjoyed it, good for you. I personally thought this book was incredibly dull. I thought the subject matter would hold my interest, but after a third of the way through the book I decided to give it up. I zoned out through the litany of characters and Sewall's endless introspection. I just couldn't make myself finish it.
Tina Panik
Aug 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Exceptional, from start to finish.
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Dec 10, 2016
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May 24, 2019
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