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Daughters of the Witching Hill

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3.72  ·  Rating details ·  4,170 ratings  ·  543 reviews
Daughters of the Witching Hill brings history to life in a vivid and wrenching account of a family sustained by love as they try to survive the hysteria of a witch-hunt.

Bess Southerns, an impoverished widow living in Pendle Forest, is haunted by visions and gains a reputation as a cunning woman. Drawing on the Catholic folk magic of her youth, Bess heals the sick and fore

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Hardcover, 333 pages
Published April 7th 2010 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (first published 2010)
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3.72  · 
Rating details
 ·  4,170 ratings  ·  543 reviews


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Christine
Feb 09, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: lovers of Salem Witchcraft Trials and its related historical fiction
(As posted on Read All Over Reviews)

Though other books have tackled a fictitious account of Lancashire Witchcraft Trials of 1612, Mary Sharratt is the first author among them to give Mother Demdike and her granddaughter, Alizon Device, their own say. Daughters of the Witching Hill is told in two voices. The first section being narrated by Bess Southerns (Mother Demdike) and the second by Alizon. Through this we see how both women viewed their world and their gift of cunning craft. Of course, som
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Christy B
Mar 25, 2010 rated it really liked it
Daughters of the Witching Hill is a beautifully crafted story of what was a horrifying moment in history.

Not knowing much about the 1612 witch trials of the Pendle witches in England, I didn't know what to expect, but I figured that it ended much like the witch trials I do know about: the Salem Witch Trials of 1692. A big difference I noticed is that in the 1612 trials, if someone admitted that they were a witch, they weren't shown leniency, while in the Salem trials, if someone admitted they we
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Barb
Before I forget, I'd like to say thank you to First Reads and the publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for giving away copies of this book here on Good Reads. I'm happy to have won my copy here. What could be better than free books?!

Mary Sharratt has created a vivid story rich with period detail and social context. Her writing is polished and refined and she is able to create a picture of what life was like for the poor after the Reformation. This book would be an excellent tool for teachers who
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Misfit
Lancashire England, late 1500's, a place of old Catholic mysticism, fairies and superstition. An aging Elizabeth rules, as does the Protestant faith and Catholics must worship in secret or face imprisonment or worse. Bess Southerns is a poor widow trying to eke out an honest living for herself and her children and one day she's *adopted* by an imp in the form of a dog and like *magic* she can heal the sick (both people and animals) by performing blessings. Eventually her great friend Anne, as we ...more
Christy English
Sep 12, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This novel is amazing. I felt almost as if I were bewitched as I read it, drawn into the magical, heart-rending world that Mary Sharratt has created. Using trial records from a witch hunt in Lancaster County, England in 1612, Ms. Sharratt brings the accused Bess Southerns and her granddaughter Alizon to brilliant, vibrant life. A jewel of a novel that makes me hungry for more of Ms. Sharratt's beautiful work.
Bethany Wade
Jan 22, 2014 rated it it was ok
I wasn't really sure how I felt when I got to the end of this book.

While Daughters of the Witching Hill does explore the interesting idea of the sometimes thin line between religion and superstition, it fails to provide a real conflict. There is the sense of dread at the possibility of the "cunning" women being discovered and charged with witchcraft, but this lingering nervousness is not really enough to keep the reader engaged through the entirety of the book. Also, the author never fully expl
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Amy Bruno
Dec 19, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Don't you love it when you start a book and immediately get sucked in just from the first few sentences? Well, that's what happened when I began to read Daughters of the Witching Hill. This book had me from hello!

Mary Sharratt paints a vivid and moving story of the Pendle Witches (also known as the Lancashire Witches), a true story of a group of women and men thought to be witches and hung in Lancashire, England in 1612. DOTWH is told through the eyes of Mother Demdike (Bess Southerns) and her g
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Linty
Jan 02, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Like a lot of people I am familiar with the Salem witch trials, but I knew almost nothing about the trials of the Pendle witches in England in 1612.

This is a well written book. The ending(no surprise how it ends..hmm..one can take a guess), brought it up a bit for me. 3/4 of the book follows the characters through their lives. It's not until the final 1/4 that you get to the trials itself(which is written really well--I felt I was there).

The characters are realistically imagined and the author
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Linda
Jul 04, 2011 rated it really liked it
This is a very compelling story with substance, one with strong women characters that resonates intellectually and emotionally. It’s based on the true story of the infamous and well-documented Pendle witch trials of 1612. The story is filled with atmosphere and poignant relationships showing not only the very human side of these women being accused of witch craft, but also the religious zealotry that fueled the fear. There is also a timelessness to the human flaws demonstrated in this book provo ...more
Ashley *Hufflepuff Kitten*
I don't remember when I bought this book; all I know is it's been on my shelf for years. I do recall picking it up to read once, but I couldn't get into it then and passed over it for something a bit easier. Given my fascination with the Salem witch trials and otherwise nonexistent knowledge of other witch trials, this book has always held a certain allure for me. Also, the cover is pretty. Sue me.

The voices of Bess Southerns and Alizon Device are perfectly captured in these pages, and even thou
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Sarah
Jan 07, 2010 rated it really liked it
As a history minor when I was in college, I did my senior thesis on the Salem witch trials. So I was extremely excited to receive an advance copy of this book through First Reads.

This seemed a very fast read for me, but then the subject is fascinating to me so that helps how quickly I can get through a book. This was hard, very hard to read, however, in an emotional sense. Knowing that this story is based on a true account (though the story is itself fiction) makes it seem much more real.

I thou
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C.W.
Mar 06, 2010 rated it really liked it
Marvelous evocation of the women and men caught up in the hysteria of a real witch trial in the late 1500s; Sharratt twists the tale with the possibility that one of the women may have actually had supernatural gifts. Sharratt infuses her tale with vivid details of life in a dangerous era. A gorgeously rendered account of faith, persecution, and tragedy.
Barbara
May 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
Such great writing....interesting characters, with history thrown in.
Emily Hazewinkel
Oct 24, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2012
I absolutely loved this book! I spent many a night declining sleep so that I could read. One of my definitions of an awesome book is one that when I am finished I either want to visit that place, or read and learn more about that subject, characters, etc. This book met both of those criteria! Mary Sharratt did a wonderful job of taking a piece of history and with some literary license develop a story that for all accounts follows what we know today of the witch trials/hunts. I did a little readi ...more
Maureen
Jun 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
Entertaining book about witchcraft in England at the turn of the 17th century, based on real events, and appears to be well researched.
Melodie
Mar 23, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this story of Bess Southern and her granddaughter, Alison Device in seventeenth century England. Considered cunning folk, Mother Demdike as she was commonly known, was a blesser. She healed and blessed ailing farm animals and family members. She could also see the future. Looked upon with a mixture of suspicion and reverence, she went about her daily life trying to keep her family together through mostly lean times, and staying out from under the baleful eye of the reformed chu ...more
Astrid
Feb 09, 2011 rated it really liked it
This historical novel is an interesting account of a true witch hunt and trial in 1612 in England. Before I read this book I was not aware of the similarities between the Salem Witch hysteria and similar ones in England spurred by King James I's writings. The author described the practicing of faith of both Protestants and Catholics (who had to hide their devotion) during the Reformation period which I had never thought about before. This book is a believable and engaging retelling of the sad, h ...more
Orla Hegarty
Feb 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
In my childhood witches were relegated to history, halloween and The Wizard of Oz.

This excellent fictionalized account of the 1612 UK witch trials is not merely history. Women today are still continually targeted for living and speaking their truth. In some parts of the world this is still called practicing witchcraft.

Last night in Canada an 11 year old girl was found murdered. Her father has been arrested. The police did not listen to the mother of this girl about the violent threats the fathe
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Jennifer Sioui
Apr 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
I was pleasantly surprised at this gem Go to England where the witch trials were beginning and see how quickly people were accused and what was used as evidence Will definitely read another book from this author
Cynthia
Jun 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
One of the best books I've ever read! The characters are so real .. you not only relate to them ... you never forget them! Historically correct and fascinating. I can still close my eyes - and magically, I'm back in the forest ...
Julia
Apr 08, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Reviewed by Andrea (A Chick Who Reads) at RexRobotReviews.com

Daughters of the Witching Hill may be fiction but its cast and storyline are taken straight from the history books. The time period of this novel is the late 1500’s through the early 1600’s. The story is based on the Pendle Witch Trials of 1612.

The book gets off to a slow start as the author recounts a lot of Bess Demdike’s coming into her powers and discovering her familiar “Tibbs.” If she could be called anything it would be a good w
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Kristen
Oct 10, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Daughters of the Witching Hill was one of the best books I read all year. I don't know how I didn't read it before now, considering that Mary Sharratt is one of my favorite authors, but I'm glad I corrected the oversight.

This novel deals with the Pendle witch trials of 1613, near Lancashire, England. It is a beautifully written portrayal of the two women at the heart of the trials, Bess Southerns (AKA Mother Demdike, or Gran to Alizon) and her granddaughter Alizon Device. Told through their poi
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Brenda
Jul 31, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: those who are interested in historical witchcraft trials
Shelves: favorites
I once had a student tell me that we couldn't allow/encourage children or adults to read the Harry Potter novels in school because, if we did, we would have to start burning witches again! Instead of assigning Harry Potter, I think I would like to require students to read books based on actual witchcraft cases. I read transcripts of witchcraft trials when I was in middle school--and, even then, I was horrified by the irrationality and injustice of the prosecutors. I'm not sure how many of today' ...more
Laurie
Jul 13, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is one of the most engrossing and touching historical novels I’ve ever read. The characters are so vivid and the setting so well drawn that I felt I knew these people.

Set late in the reign of Elizabeth I and the earlier years of James I, the novel takes place in Lancashire, England in the Pendle Hill area. The protagonists are the family of Bess Southerns, a poor widow who has no land and no trade but her healing ability and some day labor. They live in stark poverty- almost nothing to eat
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Amy
May 02, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, read-in-2010
Although I rather enjoy historical fiction, I haven't read a great deal about this time period. For some reason, I tend to gravitate towards later years in history. So, I was interested in giving this novel a read since it sounded like a really interesting story.

It took me awhile to get into the book but once I began to get into it, it was fantastic. I think that it took me some time to warm up to the period of history and getting the 'lay of the land' with the novel. But, once I was able to get
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Kate Forsyth
Oct 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
In the early 17th century, during the last years of the Elizabethan era, a witch craze hit Lancashire and a dozen men and women were brought to trial accused of black magic and Satanism. Six of the accused came from just two families who lived near to each other at Pendle Hill in Lancashire. Elizabeth Southerns (called Mother Demdike) was in her eighties, and was accused along with her daughter (also called Elizabeth) and her grand-children James and Alizon Device. A neighbour Annie Whittle (cal ...more
Paul Pessolano
Feb 03, 2011 rated it liked it
In 1612 in Lancashire, England, the town of Pendle hill, seven women and two men were hanged for witchcraft. An eighth woman escaped the hangman's noose by dying in prison.

Although written as fiction, the story is based in historical fact, not unlike the Salem Witch Trials.

The story revolves around Bess Southern and her family. King Henry VIII has dissolved the Catholic Church but many still remain true to the Church and remain steeped in the ways of the Church.

Bess is known throughout the count
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Beverly
Dec 30, 2009 rated it liked it
I was pulled into the story from the beginning despite knowing what the ending. The joy in this book is the telling of the story and the language describing the period. I very much enjoy a good historical fiction and once again Mary Sharratt does not disappoint the reader in providing a well-researched book.

While reading the story of the three generations of “healing” women that lived in the late 16th/early 17th century, I was taken with the living the conditions of the time, especially for thos
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Felice
Feb 05, 2011 rated it it was ok
This novel is a what if, fictionalized account, inspired by true events retelling of the Pendle Witch Trails of 1612. In Sharratt's Pendle grandmother Bess and granddaughter Alizon lead a life on the margins. They are under no ones protection and therefore suspects in everything and anything negative that occurs in the local community. Bess supports her small family with healing, herbal medicines and some fortune telling. She is also schooling Alizon and neighbor Anne in her craft. When a magist ...more
Caitlin
Apr 03, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2010
This had a slow start for me and I actually thought about giving it up, but I'm so glad I didn't because once I got far enough into it the book opened itself up to me like a flower and revealed its stark beauty, sadness, and pain.

I didn't know anything about this particular set of witch hunts, but I'm familiar with the time period (and grateful I don't live in it). I've read a lot of books recently where the tension between the old faith (Catholicism) and the new one (Protestantism) has played a
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Mary Sharratt is an American writer who lives with her Belgian husband in the Pendle region of Lancashire, England, the setting for her acclaimed 2010 novel, DAUGHTERS OF THE WITCHING HILL, which recasts the Pendle Witches of 1612 in their historical context as cunning folk and healers.

Previously she lived for twelve years in Germany. This, along with her interest in sacred music and herbal medic
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“Tibb has admonished me to be careful which road I walked, but in truth no road was simple, straightforward, or, indeed, what it appeared to be at first glimpse. Every path was tricksy, full of turns and twists and blind corners with God-only-knew-what dangers lurching round the bend.” 5 likes
“The quickest thing to turn to hate is love betrayed.” 1 likes
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