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(Widdershins #1)

3.84  ·  Rating details ·  306 ratings  ·  56 reviews
‘Did all women have something of the witch about them?’
Jane Chandler is an apprentice healer. From childhood, she and her mother have used herbs to cure the sick. But Jane will soon learn that her sheltered life in a small village is not safe from the troubles of the wider world.
From his father’s beatings to his uncle’s raging sermons, John Sharpe is beset by bad fortune.
Paperback, 250 pages
Published July 1st 2017 by Impress Books
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May 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
Inspired by true events, this is a fantastically atmospheric book that immerses the reader vividly in seventeenth century north east England and Scotland. The narrative alternates between two main characters: Jane, whose mother is teaching her the skills of midwifery and herbal medicine; and John, a young man brutalised by his mother’s death and violent father. How their two stories will converge and at what point provides the narrative hook to the book.

I loved the period detail and depictions o
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Gripping, heartbreaking, insightful, chilling - oh yes - very very chilling. This is one book I won't forget in a hurry. It's based on true facts - the witch trials of Newcastle in the 1650s which were the result of women being persecuted for being women, for giving birth, for taking remedies to soothe pain as they went against God's will apparently....

There are two stories - Jane and John - Jane is a young girl living with women accused o
Maxine (Booklover Catlady)
This book was chosen for my book club and there were very mixed opinions on it. I admit I did not get to the very end, I tried my hardest but was essentially just bored. I found the prose and style of language used in the book really put me off and it just didn't live up to expectations at all. I may revisit this book at another time but don't hold your breath. Some of our book club members liked it, others like me, gave up on it. It may or may not be for you. ...more
Nov 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
Before reading Widdershins, I wasn't aware that in 1650 14 women and one man were put to death accused of witchcraft. The Newcastle Witch Trials seem to have been forgotten yet it was the largest recorded mass execution for witchcraft in English history and Widdershins rights this wrong. One of the most moving things about this novel is the afterword, where Helen Steadman lists the names of the women falsely accused and murdered on the Town Moor.

The novels is told through the characters of Jane
May 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: historical
I am inexorably drawn to stories of witchcraft and the notorious Witch trials of the 17th century and this one in particular called out loudly to me, especially as it is set in the North East of England, as am I. It is based on factual events that will quite frankly make any womans blood run cold!

Narrated in 2 very different first person voices, one to whom I really warmed and one who was so loathsome and despicable I found it quite difficult being placed inside his warped mind.

The first voice i
Stephanie (Bookfever)
Widdershins was a book that took me by surprise in the best way possible. The start was a little bit slow for me and I had to get used to the writing style a little but soon enough I was totally hooked by this story. I thought it was really, really great!

The story is written in two points of view that take place over some years. We've got the POV of Jane, a young girl who's an apprentice healer and John who eventually grows from a kind little boy to a callous witch-finder in this book. I probabl
The Librarian Witch
Jun 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
This was kind of a difficult read for me.
Not because is was bad.
Not at all!
But because of how frustrating and maddening it was to read about how these poor women were treated and thought of. Made even more frustrating by the fact that half of the chapters are written from the view of an actual witch-finder - with all of his prejudice, hate, anger, and vile thoughts towards women included.
This makes this a difficult read.
More difficult than other books I’ve read that are based of the witch trials
Alex (ReadingBetweenTheNotes)
This book was utterly engrossing and the subject matter was fascinating. I loved reading about Newcastle and Durham, having grown up there and thus recognising places I had been. I also loved the Geordie colloquialisms that the author included and I definitely think this added to my reading experience. I'd be interested to know how non-North-Eastern readers found it and if they understood everything!

Widdershins was extremely well-written and the alternating perspectives were distinctive, which i
Jan 28, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed this read very much. Gave quite a taste of the witch hunts and trials of the 17th century and how women were generally badly treated. Read a book with a similar seafaring strand and could see the ending coming. But would recommend as a good read.
May 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Widdershins takes us into the North East of the mid-seventeenth century and back to a dark, dark place where superstition and mischance are as dangerous as stumbling widdershins around a graveyard in the chill of night.

Jane Chandler has learned the use of herbs and healing from her mother, Anna and Meg, both local wise women. These generous women taught her the old ways and the cunning ways, the traditions and teachings of country folk and how to watch for signs that creep and crumble in the dar
Fin Gray
Aug 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Widdershins is a hard novel to forget. The characters are so real you can picture them beside you and their fates are as important to you as if you knew them personally. Some to love and some to hate but none you will feel indifferent to. The language is rich and sounds authentic and the story is told unapologetically with no holds barred. This was a book I didn’t want to end and very hard to put down. Helen Steadman knows her subject inside out and gives great insight into a period of history t ...more
Andy Weston
Steadman's novel tells a fictionalised version of the witch trial in Newcastle in 1650. It is dually narrated by John Sharpe and Jane Chandler and set in Lanarkshire and Shotley Bridge (north east England) respectively. Amongst the strengths of the story are to offer an explanation of how in that dark part of our history the pressures on a young boy can lead him to a life that he believes is the one God wanted for him. I have read several books about the witch trials trying to understand how suc ...more
Feb 12, 2018 rated it liked it
Jane Chandler is learning how to be a cunning woman from her mother. John Sharpe is being raised by an abusive father who thinks all women are witches. Set against the backdrop of the witch hunts of the mid 17th century, these two characters eventually collide. This story highlights how religion has been used again and again to persecute people and keep others in fear and ignorance. Good piece of historical fiction.
Lauren Dilbo
Oct 30, 2017 rated it really liked it
a perfect autumnal/Halloween read. Telling the story of a young girl accused of being a witch and the man sent to condemn her it is a superbly told, impeccable researched novel that will keep you hooked until the end I cannot wait to read more from Helen Steadman.
Tracey the Lizard Queen
Oct 13, 2017 marked it as to-read
The author is coming to our local library for a talk! I'd better read her book then! ...more
Oct 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: on-my-shelf
Fascinating, cleverly written and at times an uncomfortable read.
Penny-sue Wolfe
Jan 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This is a fascinating book based on the Newcastle witch trials of the 17th Century. Great characters, some of the authors descriptions are quite dark but overall a good historical novel.
Harriet Springbett
Jan 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
This isn't the kind of book I usually read (historical), but I found it absorbing because of the detail and the reactions it provoked in me. Its strength is its depth of research, which gives a strong picture of the environment and the mentalities of the people around 1650 in Newcastle and Scotland. The information about the plants is fascinating, the way the witch-hunters worked troubling and the treatment of women horrific. I did find the story itself a little predictable and the dialogue a li ...more
Linda Hill
May 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Jane learns the ways of natural healing from her mother. John is an orphan affected by his bad luck. Each is a product of their time.

Widdershins is absolutely brilliant. Read it.

I’m not sure I can bring myself to say anything else, so wonderful was this story, but I’ll try.

Set in the mid seventeenth century, Widdershins paints the most vivid and disturbing portrait of the times. Helen Steadman shows humanity (or frequently the lack of it) nature, superstition, the church and authority, relations
Jul 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
"Widdershins" is an engrossing book, with well-developed fictional characters who feel authentic as they speak to us across the span of almost four centuries. Steadman creates voices that sound true, in settings that feel quite real because of the author's bewitching way with sensory and historical details.

I was drawn to this novel because of the historical connection to healers--mostly women--who took care of their communities, investing lifetimes of learning to practice, expand, and preserve
Nov 06, 2017 rated it did not like it
So far this book has been a huge disappointment. I had the impression that this would be a book about the defence of women at a time when they were often persecuted for being a witch. The opposite has been true. I've hated reading about such disrespect, mistreatment of power and abuse.
If it told a worthy or particularly interesting tale I might feel differently, but, I'd stay away from this one. Even if the end gets better, I've not enjoyed the journey reading it one bit.

Now finished - this boo
Denise Trueman
Jun 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great book though a bit gruesome

A well written account of the Newcastle witch trials. Starting with the stories of a young romance, a special relationship between mother and daughter and a very troubled young man. Great book but I had to put it down a couple of times. It’s a tough read, especially as you realise parts of it are based on fact.
Shaz Goodwin
May 31, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Review coming on tour!
Amal Bedhyefi
Nov 06, 2017 rated it liked it
Although it started slow , I loved how the events were progressing .
Such an autumnal beautiful read indeed
Nicola Smith
Aug 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
Widdershins is such a compelling story of two lives and their eventual convergence. Those two people are John Sharpe and Jane Chandler and this is the mid-1600s, a time of great unrest for women as more and more of them were rounded up and prosecuted for being witches.

John is a truly horrible character, one in whom I didn't find a single redeeming feature. You could call him a product of his upbringing, with a mother who died giving birth to him and a father who beat him black and blue, but I th
Ted Curtis
Jul 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Picture it, if you will, sir: two childhoods both brutal and idyllic, the rural English Northeast and the south of Scotland in in the Seventeenth Century. The civil war an afterthought, the routine tragedies of the daily grind are detailed and laid bare. The misogyny of the accursed Christian church is given full reign with the coming puritan insurgency that would seek to ban Christmas, folk dancing, and many other things: really, what would possibly go wrong?

But enough of the silly voices. Bas
Lisa Redmond
Jan 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing

Widdershins by Helen Steadman is based on the Newcastle Witch trials of 1650. Very little is known of the event other than a list of names of those who were executed, and even that is disputed. With so little information it was a subject ripe for fiction and Helen Steadman has delivered a truly compelling and thrilling tale. Divided into two narratives; Scotsman John Sharp and apprentice healer English girl Jane Chandler are the fictional creations who become entangled in this all too tragic occ
Oct 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
‘Did all women have something of the witch about them?’

I have always been drawn to books about witch-hunting, I love reading about people’s logic for determining who is a witch and who isn’t. Previously, I’ve more been drawn to historical crime fiction with a gory murder at its core – Widdershins has taught me I don’t need a gory murder to enjoy this genre – I loved reading about the mixing of lotions and potions and what life was like in 17th century Britain. And where else, but historical fict
This story follows two points of view, John and Jane. In Scotland, John is a motherless child, blamed and punished by his awful father for the death of his mother as she gave birth to him. John's is a humourless, unkind existence despite the best efforts of the local midwife, Dora, to look after him. In the Newcastle area of England, Jane lives a very different life with her loving mother, who is housekeeper for the local vicar.

The book parallels their lives as they grow up. John gradually beco
Nov 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I finished this in a single sitting. Helen Steadman's writing was captivating and horrifying.
On Jane's side, it's clear she was a young and (possibly) nîave woman. Like so many women over the course of time, she sought to help others and promote the good care of all women.
But reading John's account was like seeing the inner workings of a mad man brought to life. His views and values are so completely out of touch and immoral...but don't appear alien to me. So many of these views continue throu
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Helen Steadman is a historical novelist. Her first novel, Widdershins and its sequel, Sunwise were inspired by the Newcastle witch trials. Her third novel, The Running Wolf, is a tale of swords, smuggling and sedition, based on the real-life master swordmakers who defected from Germany to England in 1687.

Despite the Newcastle witch trials being the largest mass execution of witches on a single da

Other books in the series

Widdershins (2 books)
  • Sunwise (Widdershins #2)

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