A young Puritan woman--faithful, resourceful, but afraid of the demons that dog her soul--plots her escape from a violent marriage in this riveting and propulsive historical thriller from the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Flight Attendant.
Boston, 1662. Mary Deerfield is twenty-four years old. Her skin is porcelain, her eyes delft blue, and in England she might have had many suitors. But here in the New World, amid this community of saints, Mary is the second wife of Thomas Deerfield, a man as cruel as he is powerful. When Thomas, prone to drunken rage, drives a three-tined fork into the back of Mary's hand, she resolves that she must divorce him to save her life. But in a world where every neighbor is watching for signs of the devil, a woman like Mary--a woman who harbors secret desires and finds it difficult to tolerate the brazen hypocrisy of so many men in the colony--soon finds herself the object of suspicion and rumor. When tainted objects are discovered buried in Mary's garden, when a boy she has treated with herbs and simples dies, and when their servant girl runs screaming in fright from her home, Mary must fight to not only escape her marriage, but also the gallows. A twisting, tightly plotted thriller from one of our greatest storytellers, Hour of the Witch is a timely and terrifying novel of socially sanctioned brutality and the original American witch hunt.
Chris Bohjalian is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of 24 books. His work has been translated into 35 languages and become three movies and an Emmy-nominated TV series.
Look for his next novel on March 19, 2024: THE PRINCESS OF LAS VEGAS. (Yes, you can preorder it as a hardcover, eBook, or on audio wherever you buy books.)
The paperback of THE LIONESS went on sale this summer. It is already in development for a limited TV series from e One and Marsh Entertainment. A luxurious African safari turns deadly for a Hollywood star and her entourage in this riveting historical thriller, about which the New York Times wrote in its spring preview, "Bohjalian steers this runaway Land Rover of a story into some wildly entertaining territory." The Boston Globe wrote, "Bohjalian, one of our finest storytellers, weaves his spellbinding magic."
Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, and Booklist all gave it starred reviews.
His 2021 novel, HOUR OF THE WITCH, is a tale of historical suspense set in 1662 Boston, a story of the first divorce in North America for domestic violence -- and a subsequent witch trial. Diana Gabaldon in her review in the Washington Post called it "historical fiction at its best." Danielle Trussoni in the New York Times called it "harrowing."
His 2020 novel, “The Red Lotus,” is a twisting story of love and deceit: an American man vanishes on a rural road in Vietnam and his girlfriend, an emergency room doctor trained to ask questions, follows a path that leads her home to the very hospital where they met, and is also in development for a TV series. In the New York Times, Sarah Lyall called it, “Terrific. . .[an] elegant noose of a plot. . .Bohjalian is a pleasure to read. He writes muscular, clear, propulsive sentences. . .As suspenseful as it is, The Red Lotus is also unexpectedly moving — about friendship, about the connections between people and, most of all, about the love of parents for children and of children for parents. Bohjalian is a writer with a big heart and deep compassion for his characters.”
His 2018 novel, “The Flight Attendant,” debuted as a New York Times, USA Today, Wall Street Journal, Publishers Weekly, and National Indiebound Bestseller. It is now HBO Max TV series, starring Kaley Cuoco. Season two landed in April 2022.
He is also a playwright and screenwriter. He has a new play, "The Club," arriving at the George Street Playhouse in February 2024,
His other plays include his adaptation of his novel, "Midwives," and "Wingspan," (originally called "Grounded").
His books have been chosen as Best Books of the Year by the Washington Post, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the Hartford Courant, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, Kirkus Reviews, Bookpage, and Salon.
His awards include the Walter Cerf Medal for Outstanding Achievement in the Arts; the ANCA Freedom Award for his work educating Americans about the Armenian Genocide; the ANCA Arts and Letters Award for The Sandcastle Girls, as well as the Saint Mesrob Mashdots Medal; the New England Society Book Award for The Night Strangers; the New England Book Award; Russia’s Soglasie (Concord) Award for The Sandcastle Girls; a Boston Public Library Literary Light; a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award for Trans-Sister Radio; a Best Lifestyle Column for “Idyll Banter” from the Vermont Press Association; and the Anahid Literary Award. His novel, Midwives,was a number one New York Times bestseller, a selection of Oprah’s Book Club, and a New England Booksellers Association Discovery pick. He is a Fellow of the Vermont Academy of Arts and Sciences.
He has written for a wide variety of magazines and newspapers, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, Cosmopolitan, Reader’s Digest, and The Boston Globe Sunday Magazine. He was a weekly columnist in Vermont for The Burlington Free Press from 1992 through 2015.
Chris graduated Phi Beta Kappa and Summa Cum Laude from Amherst C
This is stunning, thought provoking and intense! A book keeps you on your toes, fists are clenched, your heart rates are skyrocketing, tension is building higher, you get more agitated at each moment to know what’s gonna come next!
This is truly twisty, disturbing ride and not for everyone!
Let’s take a closer look to understand the intense, dark, claustrophobic premise of this story: It takes place in Boston, 1662. Young, innocent, beautiful Mary, only 24, taking eyes of people with her porcelain skin, penetrating blue eyes. But this is not historical romance story. Nothing in this story is about love. With her beauty, she can have so many suitor candidates but in this new world order, she is forced to become second wife of a Thomas Deerfield, a powerful, dangerous man who is abusive scumbag. Yes, he doesn’t resist to use his violent tendencies against his new wife.
Mary needs to do something urgently to get rid of this marriage. But it’s not quiet simple because she already gave so much wrong impressions to the people in the community. The tainted objects are found buried in the garden already earned her more scrutinizing, prying eyes of people.
And the boy’s tragic fate she tried to heal with herbs and special blend, a frightened girl’s running away from her house verify the suspicions that she might be a dangerous witch! Is she really? Now she doesn’t only have to run away from her abusive monster at the home, she also needs to prove her innocence not to be burned at the stake!
The book starts a little slow to give detailed picture about the psychological background and realistic approach of the surroundings, community life, introducing characters. But second half, it turns into something breathtakingly sinister that you cannot put it down! And that meaningful, satisfying ending sealed the deal! I’m sold!
Hour of the Witch is a historical fiction novel sit in Bostin in the 1600's. Mary Deerfield is a 24-year old woman married to Thomas Deerfield. Thomas is not an ideal husband - he is a drunk and a wife beater. Mary decides that she is going to pursue the extreme step of divorcing Thomas on the grounds of cruelty. However, who is to be believed, a woman or a respectable man? What did Mary do to provoke this man? Will the tables be turned on Mary?
The plot of this book touches on an important issue - although Mary had many, many advantages that most women do not have. When women do initiate divorce proceedings, the question is usually, "What do you do to make him angry?" even in cases where men have beat their wives. The pacing of this book was a bit off at times, and I disagreed with such heavy use of foreshadowing or flat out spoilers at the beginning of the chapters. There were 2 major events in the book, and I think that it would have been better to cut this down to 1 or just blend them into one event. I also was not really enjoying the "How are thee? Thou are wonderful." dialogue, and I felt about 50% to 75% into the book that it was dragging a bit.
The author did do a fantastic job researching this book, and the vocabulary was quite sophisticated.
*Thank you, NetGalley, for providing me with a free ARC in exchange for my fair and honest review.
2023 Reading Schedule Jan Alice in Wonderland Feb Notes from a Small Island Mar Cloud Atlas Apr On the Road May The Color Purple Jun Bleak House Jul Bridget Jones’s Diary Aug Anna Karenina Sep The Secret History Oct Brave New World Nov A Confederacy of Dunces Dec The Count of Monte Cristo
Wow, wow, wow. I think I’ve been reading books by Chris Bohjalian my entire adult life? Early works like Buffalo Soldier, Midwives, and more recent ones like the thrilling The Flight Attendant are all books I've enjoyed. In Hour of the Witch, Bohjalian has penned a literary historical thriller involving the Puritans and possible witches in the 1600s.
Mary Deerfield is young and married to an older violent named Thomas. She yearns for something better for her own life, her marriage, and for all women in the colony. It’s perhaps due to this forward thinking among other things that leads to Mary being considered a witch, and her life is on the line.
Be prepared for a slower, more quiet start to this story as the author builds this colonial Puritan world. The latter half of the book is thrilling, dark, and addictive page-turning. The ending pays off in a big way. I highly recommend this heart-pounding, fully immersive novel, and can’t wait for what’s next from this most talented author.
Hour of the Witch is a story of 24 year old Mary Deerfield. She's married to a well-to-do mill owner. Her husband is a drunk and abusive. Mary wants a divorce after the abuse has gotten worse. Divorce was a difficult matter in 1662 Boston where the whole town has a say AND the plaintiff is accused of witchcraft. I wasn't expecting this to be a legal drama.
A complete outlier for this unsatisfied listener. Over 85% of positive ratings are 4 and 5 stars on GR and Amazon. Although on Overdrive (audio) it receives less than 2.5 stars. I've been trying to enjoy the story but just couldn't. As of this writing, I am 2 hours away from the ending and I just don't see a three-star on the horizon. This is not a thriller and I can't recommend the audio version.
Mary Deerfield is a twenty-four-year-old woman married to Thomas Deerfield. Mary is Thomas' second wife. His first wife died after being kicked by a horse. Mary should feel lucky to be married to such a powerful man, but she lives in fear of his anger, his drinking, and his violence.
Mary knows she is talked about. She and Thomas have been married for five years and she is barren. She hides her bruises or explains them away when others see them. But the final straw comes after tainted objects are found buried in her garden. Her servant girl, already uneasy after Mary attempts to save her dying brother with herbs and simples, runs away from Mary's home, accusing Mary of being a witch. To make matters worse, when Thomas learns that their servant accused Mary of being a witch, he stabs a three-tined fork into the back of Mary's hand.
Mary decides enough is enough and decides to divorce her husband.
But Mary lives in a time where neighbors are spying on neighbors. If you are pointing the finger at someone else, no one is pointing their finger at you, right!?! Women are not allowed to speak their minds, stand up for themselves or have sexual feelings. Anything and everything can be used against you. Talk to a stranger - you are branded a whore! Try to use a natural remedy to cure an illness - you are branded a witch! Be different in any way shape or form, you are in league with the devil! Your husband can beat you citing bible verses and telling you it is for your own good. How did women back then even dare to leave the house? Books like these make me happy I was not born back them. Whew!
Slow to start, but it gains ground quickly. I love books set during this time frame and am fascinated by the accusation of witchcraft. Throughout history, people (especially women) have been maligned for being different. People have been persecuted for living or behaving outside of the norm. Was this the case for Mary? Judged for not bearing children, for being nice to strangers, for being intelligent, and for sticking up for herself.
I found this to be both thought provoking and captivating. I could not help but feel or Mary and her plight. There are even a few twists and turns which keep things moving and interesting. I even loved the language used in the book. It made this tale feel more authentic while also setting the mood. The mood is also set with the sense of tension that permeates throughout the book. This book is also atmospheric. I had an uneasy feeling throughout and kept thinking "nothing good can come of this." At times I wanted to take Mary aside and tell her "people are watching you, be smart, be cautious" etc.
Beautifully written and plotted. Hour of the Witch is tense, atmospheric, and thought provoking.
Thank you to Doubleday books and NetGalley who provided me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All the thoughts and opinions are my own.
A fictional story about domestic abuse during 1662-63 and its consequences for everyone involved.
Positive points: 1. this was an interesting history lesson about Puritan women seeking divorce and/or being accused of witchcraft in 17th-century New England. The trial scenes were quite frustrating, in a riveting way, depicting the hypocrisy of the magistrates and their outrageous allowances of superstitions, conjectures, and outlandish opinions - overall, a total lack of neutrality! So many times, I would shake my head in disbelief and disgust; 2. I liked the element of mystery in this plot! Who was trying to frame the main character, Mary Deerfield? Even though she had her supporters, several characters had it in for her; and, 3. I found that the spoken language was quite authentic for this time period.
But ... what were my biggest issues? 1. Although many characters were unlikeable (and for good reason), many times Mary would make such unbelievably stupid choices, that I would often say, "Girl, what are you thinking?" Was this a lame attempt by the author to include this book in the romance genre? In my opinion, this story could have easily worked without that sideline; 2. Even though it had an interesting climax, the ending was, unfortunately, predictable; and, 3. Although several narrators spoke various, albeit small, parts in this audiobook, I thought the main narrator was quite lackluster. So many scenes required intense expressiveness, not a matter-of-fact telling of the events. Even I read aloud picture books to youngsters with more expression!
All in all, even though this story contained some intriguing elements, I'm afraid it won't be a very memorable read for me.
My recommendation? Go for it! Read this book, especially if you are a fan of romance, but do so preferably in print form.
Mary Deerfield, along with her parents, left England and travelled across the sea for a life in America, in hopes for a new land and new life which held much promise. For her father, he felt the religious call of the New World, and the chance for him to further build his established trade company. At the age of 24 Mary became the second wife of Thomas Deerfield, whose verbal, and physical, attacks have made her cautious, but not meek. Thomas is prone to drinking in excess, and taking out his foul moods on Mary, repeatedly belittling her by saying she has ‘white meat’ for a brain, as well as taunting her for her inability to conceive a child. His daughter, Peregrine, married shortly before Mary and Thomas, was close to Mary’s age, and already has children of her own, making Mary a grandmother.
Mary’s father imports items from abroad, objects not readily available in this new land. The finest lace, and the newest items making their way across the sea, along with other items not found in the colonies. Among the latest are three tined forks, which has recently become popular in England, but these puritans consider them to be the Devil’s tines, and Mary’s father has gifted her with a set of six of these forks, which doesn’t sit well with Thomas.
Suspicions and rumours abound after two of these evil forks are spotted in Mary and Thomas’ yard. One night, in a fit of drunken anger, one will become used to impale her hand and breaking bones. Although it’s no surprise by whom, Mary will have a difficult time proving it, or finding a way to prevent further abuse. Instead, her declarations of the truth cause her to be shunned, ridiculed and desperately seeking her freedom from this ungodly marriage. She is a woman, and therefore assumed to be prone to hysteria, lying and labelled a witch if she is unhappy with the physical abuse she has been forced to endure in her marriage .
While not quite what I would consider to be a ‘thriller,’ there is an ever-mounting tension in this story, with a completely unexpected ending that I didn’t see coming.
Pub Date: 04 May 2021
Many thanks for the ARC provided by Doubleday Books / Doubleday #HouroftheWitch #NetGalley
Now a Goodreads Choice finalist in Historical Fiction!
This was pretty boring for me, I’m sorry to say. I feel bad because the author seems like a really nice person, but I can’t pretend I deeply enjoyed my time reading this one. Even though the end had an amount of vindication, it just didn’t make up for the tedious 17th century courtroom drama that dominated the rest of the text.
Despite what the title may suggest, The Hour of the Witch is firmly historical fiction, with the ‘witch’ aspect being contained to a couple of trials where it’s suggested a young woman may be in contact with the devil. It’s 1662 Boston and Mary Deerfield has been married several years to a man almost twice her age. She herself is not only at the mercy of an abusive husband, but also at the mercy of the court as she tries to untangle herself from his cruel grip.
I’ve read books like this before, and in my opinion if you’ve read one you’ve basically read them all. There’s a puritanical village terrified of anything different, usually scapegoating woman and POC. There’s suspicious townspeople who are constantly accusing the vulnerable with little to no evidence. And of course there’s the malignant patriarchy that abuses and excuses in all the old familiar ways. It’s predictable and it’s depressing, often with very little new insight on the matter besides this bad thing happened, isn’t that so terrible???
Personally, I’ve stopped seeking out books about suffering for suffering’s sake. I know that this type of historical fiction is popular, but it really just exhausts me. This isn’t a poorly written book and you can tell the author put a lot of research into crafting it, but it’s just not for me. If you’re really in the mood for something with this vibe, I thought The Mercies was a little better done. And if you want something a little witchier, with a dash of actual, ahem, magic, then I’d recommend The Once and Future Witches.
Not trying to fully discourage anyone from picking this book up, but I just want to make sure you know what you’ll be getting into. Thanks Carrie & Jordan for my MBC copy!
I think I’m an outlier here; I wasn’t a huge fan of Chris Bohjalian’s “Hour of the Witch”. It could be that I adored so many of his previous works that I had high expectations. Or it could be that I have lived most of my adult life in a town abutting Salem Massachusetts and the puritan witch stuff is something that I’m tired of. I would have passed on this if it wasn’t written by Bohjalian. To me, he is a gifted author.
On to the novel, Bohjalian did take an interesting angle in his story. He wanted to write from a woman’s perspective when she was in a bad marriage, one that is physically abusive so she wanted to get out of her marriage. At that time, divorce was rare. Additionally, it was a time of male dominated life. Men generally looked at woman as “helpmates” that need “discipline” from time to time. So, some beatings, in the men’s opinion, were warranted to train their women.
Our protagonist, Mary Deerfield is twenty-four years old, married to a man twice her age. Her husband had children from his previous marriage, the daughter being Mary’s age. Mary is barren, which is almost a crime. The townsfolk view her poorly since she is without child. What they refuse to acknowledge is her husband’s brutal behavior towards her. Plus, this is a time when the devil and witches are prominent in everyone’s eyes. Everyone is on the lookout for those who are possessed or are doing the devil’s bidding.
The first half of the novel, over 200 pages, provides the reader with the confinements of the puritanical life, especially for women. Mary decides to try and divorce her husband, and the court room part was interesting. Bohjalian provides reference books that he used to make this as historically accurate as he could. Thank God I didn’t live at that time.
The next half of the novel picked up for me. Mary comes under fire again when she’s accused of witchery. She needs to defend herself, and she needs to discover who is setting her up to look like she’s practicing witchery. The second half became a page-turner for me. It was more of what I truly enjoy about Bohjalian: his ability to write authentically and get the reader involved in the story.
This is difficult for me to rate in that I felt the first half of the novel was a snooze, but I do think it’s because I have been “over-witched” given where I live. It was interesting to see the legal part of that period, but it wasn’t particularly fascinating for me. The second half ended up being far more thrilling. I just expected more from the novel.
Although the year is 1662 in Boston and much has changed, I find some commonalities. For one, the supposition that riches are conferred by God. Today, it may be known as the Gospel of Prosperity. Secondly, while the patriarchal nature of society in 1662 recognized women’s rights in only the most marginal ways, I would argue that patriarchy is still a dominant feature in our society but fortunately for women, our rights are no longer ignored. Thirdly, classism was prevalent then and still is, today.
Mary finds herself in the fifth year of a loveless marriage with an older man. It's not his age that bothers her; it's the fact that he hits her and is mentally and emotionally abusive. Thomas hides a cruel nature behind a mask of religiosity. This irks me no end. My irritation grows because he is successful at appearing saintly and above reproach while abusing his wife. He misses no chance to deride or belittle Mary, thinking to take her down a notch. His hypocrisy knows no bounds as he lies about the causes of Mary’s bruises. To hide cruelty and abusive behavior behind a saint’s mask is the height of arrogance. It’s like riding the Devil’s broomstick into church. Mary is no saint but she’s not pretending to be one. She is flawed but she has insight into her feelings and attitudes.
I feel madder than a wet hen about what’s happening to Mary. What power over lives the magistrates wielded, and some like Caleb Adams in this story are only contemptuous of women. Language, which the Puritan man says is meant to instruct, is instead demeaning.
“Our covenant with God is spiritual. When a man weds a wife, there is a parallel. In this case, of course, it is a civil covenant. But consider the similarities. God loves a mortal, despite his foolishness and sin, just as a man should love his wife--despite her foolishness and sin. God loves a mortal, despite his weaknesses and craven impulses, just as a man should love his wife--despite her weaknesses and craven impulses. Though a woman may be willful and passionate and show behavior that is rife with pride, that does not demand the forfeiture of the marriage. She is a helpmeet, yes, but she is the weaker of the two vessels and must be cared for.”
Men seem to stand in direct communication with God while women have to depend on their father/husband/son to interpret the divine for them. This often meant their entire lifepath was plotted by a man. Women in those times had little recourse. Thank God for the modern no-fault divorce. In 1662, patriarchy was informed by the Bible and therefore the 'word of God' was a way of life. Mary was brave, but she was also scared by Thomas’s violence. Mary is so angry, I almost wish she could be a witch and call forth hellfire and damnation on those who have condemned her to go and live again with her sorry ass husband.
This is the third book I've read by Bohjalian and with each book, I felt immersed in the time and place he is writing about. In this book, the dialog suits the era; it's peppered with thees and thous and prithees. It seems a little stilted and formal, but that is how they talked. Mary's interior dialog and spiritual battle fit what I know of Puritans. Since I attended a strict fundamentalist church in my youth and early twenties, I can readily attest that many Puritan values have come down through hundreds of years to beat about our brows today.
With a bit of a slow start, I pushed through and found myself truly enjoying this book. With one strong courageous character, Mary Deerfield, we learn of the trials and hardship she experienced living with a tyrannical abusive husband. She's been hit, pushed, and even at one point had a thee prong fork (a sure talisman of the evil and the devil) pushed through her hand by Thomas, her husband.
Having endured enough Mary sues for divorce. Common enough these days but back in Boston of 1662, women were definitely required to take it all and keep your mouth closed. Thomas is diabolical enough to have all the excuses in the world for Mary's condition, not ever allowing anyone to see or even hear his explosive abuses. We, of course, realize that Mary's suit will go nowhere except to condemn her as perhaps a witch and a woman who needs to return to her husband.
Mary refuses to allow the abuse to continue for her lifetime so she enlists the help of another woman, an outcast, probably viewed as a witch, for so many people were, and forms a plan of escape. However, sadly, Thomas seems to have a sixth sense when it comes to Mary so her plan also seems doomed.
How or if Mary escapes a life of hell, keeps this book moving towards what the reader might think is inevitable but things do change and perhaps there is a glimmer of hope that Mary will be free. Recommended to those who enjoy a book based in Puritan times and one that looks at the treatment of women as subservient to men and not their equals.
In 1662 Boston divorce is almost unheard of. But under the strain of abuse, does the impossible become the plausible? Even if under the threat of death by hanging?
Mary Deerfield notices a pattern with her husband Thomas. He drinks, he hits her, and then goes away and drinks more. When he is busy at the mill that usually puts him in good spirits. Thus, drinking “only as much cider and beer as he needed to quench his thirst.” But one day, he stabs a fork into her hand flatly placed on the table to discipline her. And he isn’t even drink-drunk. According to the law, a husband has a right to discipline his wife. He doesn’t seem to see his brutality, but Mary does, and she’s reached the breaking point. She has heard of the word before. And it’s divorce.
There are some who envy her because of her parents’ wealth and privilege “in ways that few others were in Boston.” Her father, a renowned merchant, knows the governor and the magistrates, and he would know what to do to begin this process of divorce.
Per magistrate, her parents are reputable people, but her husband is also considered a man of good standing and reputation, owner of the largest gristmill in the North End.
But there is more to the story, which may have further complications. Mary finds two forks in the ground in the walkway to her house, then a pestle. Her servant girl thinks it’s some sort of spell. Certain things could get misconstrued and be perceived as Satan’s work. It’s a time when even the most nonsensical accusations could cause grievous injury.
Mary is a very likeable character. One readers sympathize with and want to see happy and out of harm’s way. She sees other women getting pregnant and that’s what she constantly prays for. Her situation is chilling, and yet she is willing to take another risky path to get out of the current one.
Thomas turns out to be not only a brute, but also a liar. At first his abrupt behavior keeps you on edge, but then his lies put you over the edge. His temerity leaves you speechless.
The time period is intriguingly depicted, from customs through novelty of a three-tined fork to the use of old language in dialogue (thy, thou, thee).
It is a gripping page-turner, written with beautiful prose and enthrallingly developed characters.
Source: ARC was provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Review originally posted at mysteryandsuspense.com
"The Puritan through Life's sweet garden goes to pluck the thorn and cast away the rose." (Kenneth Hare)
To exist in Boston and in the early Puritan settlements must have been the scourge of every young woman of the time period. Give thought that the beasts of the field had more value and received more affection than the wife at your own table. Pity the role of no voice, no opinion, no value, and no affirmation whatsoever. Just an existence to serve......
Chris Bohjalian has produced quite the tale of life in Puritan America in his latest offering of Hour of the Witch. I dare you to sit without fidgeting throughout this one. It will set your hair on fire.
Mary Deerfield had all the assets that would catch the eye of a man: her depth of beauty, her comely manner, her agreeable nature, and a father who was a successful merchant. On the other side of this equation is Thomas Deerfield a cruel, short-tempered brute of a man advanced in years and on his second marriage. Oh, a match made in Heaven.....
Mary, at twenty-four years old, knew nothing of what awaited her in this marriage. Her naivete would be her downfall. Thomas took to the drink like a sow to mud and stumbled home most nights ill-tempered and looking for a fight. His physical treatment of Mary was despicable and she bore it night after night. But there's a fork in the road here. A metal three-tined one that Thomas plunges into Mary's hand. The usual Thomas apologies, at last, fell on deaf ears the next day.
Mary bundles her hand in cloth and takes off to the home of her parents. Well now, peace at last. Not hardly. Mary's pursuit of a divorce will seal her fate. And the very people who take seats at the front of the church will be her accusers. Spies and on-lookers will pass judgment on the wrong individual.
Bohjalian creates an atmosphere of accusations, mistrust, and downright cruelty. His research and his presentation are spot-on for the time period. The dialogue reflects the mindset of Puritan America where fire and brimstone were served up in equal amounts. Hour of the Witch allows us to experience the role of womanhood under deep duress. We follow in the footsteps of Mary as she tries to make inroads into an impossible situation. Times change.....but so many modern women seem to continue to walk in those footsteps even today.
This book paints a vivid picture of the harsh life of Boston, 1662, especially for women. The Puritans were strict, capable of whipping a man for disobeying the tenets of the church. They also were a superstitious lot, believing in witches and the devil. Of course, only women could be in league with the devil. Mary Deerfield is only 24, married to a man almost twice her age. A man who is brutal, wrapping his drunken violence in BS about discipline of the stupider sex. It also doesn’t help that she is barren, when women were viewed as being of use for only childbirth. When her father imports three-tined forks into Boston, they are seen as a symbol of the devil. When these forks are found buried in Mary’s garden, her servant girl accuses her of being a witch and runs fleeing from the house. Her husband, angry at being awakened, drives the fork into Mary’s hand. She decides that’s the final straw and begins to seek a divorce. But upsetting the apple cart of male domination and hypocrisy leads her to being accused of witchcraft. Bohjalian paints a vivid picture of the time and place. It was easy to see every scene play out in my head. I squirmed when I heard the remedies that were accepted to cure illness, versus Mary being considered a witch for offering harmless herbs. The story took a while to really get going, but once it does, there’s an ominous tension underlying the entire plot. His characters are also fully rounded. Mary struggles between her religious beliefs and her sexual nature. She wants to be a dutiful wife, but she’s not going to die trying. This book is everything I want from historical fiction, teaching me more about the time while telling a great story. It’s obvious that Bohjalian did meticulous research on all aspects - language, religion, everyday customs. While Mary is fictional, there was a woman who sought a divorce from her husband on grounds of cruelty in 1672. I listened to this, which worked extremely well. Grace Experience was the primary narrator and I was pleased with her performance. The audiobook lacked an Author’s Note. I would have loved to have learned what research Bohjalian did. I always enjoy that additional knowledge.
Hour of the Witch takes place in Boston in 1662 and follows Mary Deerfield, a young woman married to a cruel man twice her age. After her husband drunkenly stabs her in the hand with a fork, Mary decides to take matters into her own hands and attempts to divorce him. But Mary’s neighbors conspire against her and soon she may find herself being accused of witchcraft.
I liked this book, but it’s not one I can see myself rereading for recommending really. I found the historical details and the research done to create this story was very well done, but the plot was at times very slow. There were two main issues in this book, divorce and witchcraft. I understand why the author included both but I felt it made the story drawn out and too long. And while most of the plot was pretty predictable, I didn’t see the ending happening the way it did so it was a pleasant surprise.
If you’re looking for a historical fiction novel as a readalike to The Crucible or want to learn more about this area and time, this is the book for you. I didn’t see it as a mystery or thriller at all.
Boston 1662: What must a woman do to obtain a divorce from an abusive husband?
Mary along with her parents leave England for a better life in America. Mary marries Thomas Deerfield who is the pillar of the church, but when he is alone with Mary he physically abuses her. He never has a witness. Who would believe Mary she is a woman, she doesn’t have any value in the Puritan world. There are hints that she is a witch. Mary hides her bruises very well by brushing her hair a certain way to hide them. When Thomas stabs her with a fork, it is the last straw for Mary. She can’t endure this life any longer. She files for divorce with the magistrates. During the trial Thomas denies ever hurting Mary. There are whispers that she is a witch. Her divorce is denied. She must move back to live with her abusive husband. Mary is desperate to end this marriage. How can she get rid of Thomas from her life? Mary again is brought to trail for witchcraft. Will she hang from the gallows? Read this captivating and thought provoking story. A page Turner.
The Hook - I became a fan of Chris Bohjalian back when I read The Midwives, perhaps like many of you. Since I have read most of his books but the latest few left me thinking “What?”. Where did he go? And what is he writing? He seemed he lost his knack for a well plotted story, with a narrative to support it. When his latest, Hour of the Witch hit my radar, I was reluctant to give it a chance. What finally convinced me was an intriguing interview I read about his process, research, and story line in Writer's Digest, May/June.
The Line - This one line should provide the trigger warning. If domestic violence bothers you, no, that's not right. Of course it bothers us. Try that again. If you get ill reading passages with domestic violence, you may not want to read this book. ”Did other men treat their wives the way Thomas treated her?”
The Sinker - Without revealing much, let me just say “He's back” and I hope he never leaves again. Hour of the Witch had me from page one to its epilogue”. Fan, for this fan, tastic!
Great read! Didn’t disappoint at all!! Of course not!! It’s a historical fiction book set in Boston 1662. The story is based on a young Puritan woman and her husband who she tries to divorce. In the process she is accused of being a witch and she tries to find out who has caused her so much chaos and heart ache. Her husband is charged with cruelty, but today that would be domestic violence. It’s a thriller and page turner which will keep you on the edge of your seat. It’s definitely interesting to see how ideas have and have not changed. It’s also interesting to read about puritans and their believes and struggles during that time period. It’s a fantastic read !
3.5 Boston, 1662. Mary, whose parents are wealthy and prominent citizens of the colony, wants a divorce from her abusive husband. First time I have read a divorce scenario during this time period and I did find this interesting. Of course, in this time, where women had little power of their own, the capability to make choices in their own lives, the outcome looked bleak. Still, she was determined to try.
Not a thriller per say, but a solid historical of this time period, where women who refused to conform were often labeled witches. So, parts of the book were things I have read about before in many books, but I did cheer Mary on, wanted her to prevail. The ending though did provide a few notable details and I did very much like the ending. A mixed read with an intrepid heroine, but unevenly paced, new revelations but with a easy to discern path. A good book, solid read of this time period, but not one that will stick.
I read this book entirely way too fast, but isn't that a sign of a good book? Before I begin with my review, I want to note that I've only read The Red Lotus by Chris Bohjalian and I didn't love it. That being said, I LOVED the HBO Max show The Flight Attendant and can only imagine that the book is even better. I would say that Bohjalian's upcoming Hour of the Witch is a more straightforward literary fiction, rather than a twisty thriller that you've come to expect by this author. That is an aspect that I really have grown to appreciate as thrillers have become a bit stale with the usage of pointed twists to try and trick the reader into continuing a played out genre.
The story takes place in 1662 Boston and our main character is Mary Deerfield. Mary is 24 years old and from England, but has moved to the New World with her parents and was married off to a man almost twice her age, Thomas. Thomas is well known throughout Boston and is very well respected, but he does not respect his wife. Thomas was a widower and has resentment towards his first wife's death and Mary believes that has caused his violent actions towards her recently. In the early days of New England American society, religious zealotry is very popular. People were scared of the devil, and more commonly, witches. As Mary tries to focus on fixing her marriage, there may be something a bit darker happening here.
I don't want to give away too much of the story, but the synopsis really dives in a bit too far. The story focuses heavily on the treatment of women during the 1600s and the lack of any real representation of female empowerment. That is the main reason why I really was captivated by this story, because you can tell that the author did his homework. At times, this story felt very depressing and dark, but overall probably painted a very accurate depiction of this time period. This was not necessarily a thriller, but more of a literary fiction with dark undertones. There's some dark domestic violence that moves the story along, so make sure you're in the right mindset before picking up this story. Overall, I am happy to see that this author is changing up his stories with each new title. I'm excited to see what Chris Bohjalian has up his sleeves next.
Unique. Creative. Thought provoking. Sinister. Hour of the Witch is written with the story slowly being peeled back, layer by layer. I loved this riveting, slow-burning dark mystery surrounding Mary Deerfield’s fate.
I learned so much about the colonial Puritan community. Chris Bohjalian has built as much depth into his characters from that time period, as he has so very vividly captured the natural landscape. I absolutely loved the setting. It truly felt as I was transported to Boston in the 1600’s. With its rich, yet oppressive atmosphere, Bohjalian’s depiction of hysteria and persecution facing women in the 1600’s is unimaginable, as the fear of witches was quite prevalent at that time. Times were bleak for Mary Deerfield. She lived under fear and torment from her husband, and town gossip that would surely send her to the gallows if the townspeople had their way. This story had my stomach in knots as Mary plots her escape, while under the grip of her husband’s cruelty.
This powerful, atmospheric book brought out a rollercoaster of emotions in me. With an inventive plot and twists throughout, Chris Bohjalian has always been consistent with writing challenging novels that I always find enjoyable and unputdownable. Highly recommend. 4.5 stars.
REVIEW • Hour of the Witch • thanks to the publisher for the eARC, all opinions are my own
Oof, this was a rough one for me. I thought it sounded like a super interesting book - a "historical thriller" set in 1600s Boston in the backdrop of the fears of witches among the Puritans. Let me say, I realize that it's not the author's fault that the book was marketed as a thriller, but given that was what I was expecting, this did not fit that bill at all. However, even if I hadn't thought it was a thriller, this book was just soooo s l o w. Basically the first half of the book was just what was in the jacket synopsis. I spent the entire book just waiting for something to actually happen, and then when there was a bit more in the ending, it fell way short for me. I also found the trial testimony quotes at the beginning of each chapter to basically take out any element of surprise we may have gotten at how things were going to go. Overall, this one just really missed the mark for me, but for those who are fans of the author or go in with different expectations, it may be a better fit.
A well-written work of historical fiction (although I wouldn't go as far as calling it a thriller), Hour of the Witch is engaging and deals with a topic that still reverberates with meaning. Chris Bohjalian takes us to Boston in the 1660s and delving into the perilous difficulties - often fatal - of being a woman, a nonconformist, an outsider, a progressive, or a person with an open mind in a Puritanical society, and without a heavy hand lets the reader make inferences and connections to current gains and entrenched misogyny and structural barriers for women in society. This is a women as witch book, not a book of magic, and it's a great character study and the heroine, Mary, was both relatable and seemingly very true to her time and background: a strong believer in God and the Devil, fearful for her soul and questioning of her intentions and motivations, but also a believer in herself, understanding and challenging the cruelty and inhumanity of her husband's violence against her, and growing in understanding and compassion of others over the course of the novel.
So having said all of that, why am I only rating this three stars? First, while this is my first time reading something by Chris Bohjalian, it's definitely not my first foray into Salem-esque fiction and nonfiction looking at the witch hunts in the colonies and in Europe. And this is a good and worthy entrant into the category, but I don't think it brought anything new to the landscape. I also think that there was even less brought to bear on the psychological motivations of the accusers, because here those who condemned Mary had intimate, specific, and small reasons for doing so, rather than some of the more complex understandings of say the accusers and witnesses in the Salem witch trials. I think in Hour of the Witch whether we look at the male or female accusers and witnesses, the motivations are not deeply complex. And when most of this book revolves around Mary's trials, to only have the bulk of the psychological profile completed only for Mary and Thomas seemed like a miss.
I also think that Bohjalian's foreshadowing device interrupted some of my enjoyment of the novel and ultimately did too much to telegraph what was going to unfold. Hour of the Witch headlines each chapter with testimony from Mary's trials, giving the reader an early preview of what is to come. While this can be a really neat device that builds tension, atmosphere, or adds to the mystery and the desire to solve it, its use here served the opposite for me. Because I knew certain things were going to unfold and Mary would get to certain points in the narrative, some of the tension and mystery of the unknown would abate. The clinical quoting of testimony reduced the atmosphere and potential eeriness Bohjalian might have been inculcating. And typically, you want the device to be brought back once the reader catches up with it in the narrative, but in a new or slightly different way, or a way that puts the pieces together for the characters and/or reader and reveals something unexpected. That definitely doesn't happen here: the fragments that foreshadow come up in the narrative as they are meant to and reveal no more or less than what they did as earlier headlines. This ended up aggravating and disappointing me and detracted a bit from my enjoyment of the novel because I knew a bit too much about what was going to happen.
Ultimately, I liked this book and thought it was solid, well-written and researched, and presented us an interesting and complex character in Mary whose thoughts, desires, bravery and fears I really appreciated getting to know and spend time with. But I think the narrative and storyline was not as strong as it could have been, both because of predictability and self-spoilering and because we didn't get the same degree of complexity for most characters outside of Mary, and at least from my readings of fiction and nonfiction dealing with witch hunts, it's the interplay between accusers and accused within the society and the complex human impulses that was most fascinating and horrifying. So I'd give this 3.5 stars, rounded down to 3 stars. I would recommend it to those that like historical fiction and psychological studies of characters, and I am looking forward to reading more of Bohjalian's work in the future.
Chris Bohjalian is one of my favorite authors. I try to read everything he writes. This was a very good historic novel, a little different from what he usually writes IMO. It a historic story of a women involved in the witch trials of early Boston when it was first getting started as a city and IMO their very bizarre religious beliefs. The main character who was tried as a witch and broken out of jail by her friends had all of her problems based on a three tined fork which was believe to be from the devil. Author did a lot of research to write this book and I did enjoy it and learned a lot.
‘We separated and came here to this wilderness, and so far we have shown only that we are as flawed and mortal here as we were across the ocean. There is no act of horror or violence of which man is not capable.’
Bohjalian’s historical fiction novels have become a favorite of mine and he has created another well written novel with The Hour of the Witch. The dialogue took a bit of time to get used to, but once I found its rhythm I was hooked. Mary was such an easy character to sympathize with. She was trapped in a time when women had very few options and were considered a ‘witch’ if they defied what the community considered appropriate behavior. I will never look at a fork the same way again. 4 stars.
*Also, the whole time I was reading Mary’s story I kept thinking how lucky I am to live in the time that I do... wonder what Mary’s thoughts would be on how we, as women, are today.
'Hour of the Witch' was a very pleasant surprise as I did not think it would be as intriguing and exciting when I first checked it out. The multiple narrators added tremendously to the listening experience - just a spectacularly talented ensemble - kudos to all. This book also provided me with a much appreciated and well researched education about a time in history of which I knew very little. Didn't take long till I found myself mesmerized with this fascinating story of witches, witchcraft, lashings, lynchings, the horrible way women were treated and taken for granted and so much more... I am hopeful there will lots more to come from the spectacular imagination of Chris Bohjalian.
Prithee, dost thou have white meat for brains??? Run, run, and thou don't read this like I did lest you have those white meats!
I love Chris Bohjalian. He always writes interesting, unique books. Unfortunately, despite the good reviews so far on Goodreads, this book sucks. I struggled mightily to get through it. First, it's just boring and predictable. Mary Deerfield lives in Puritan Boston and is trying to divorce her abusive husband. Um, do you think that's going to happen? Then Mary is accused of being a witch. You can also guess how that turns out - though there is a little twist there at the end. I don't know why this book is being described as a thriller because it's a snooze fest.
Then there's the dialogue that Bohjalian tries to make authentic to the time - and it's so terrible! Dost, hast, shant, thou, thy. It was hard to get through sentences because I kept having to think about what the hell they were saying.
And you could make an effective, or even deadly, drinking game out of the amount of times Bohjalian uses the phrase "white meat for brains" to describe a really dumb person. He must have read this phrase somewhere, it stuck, and he used it at least two dozen times.