Bob Schnell's Reviews > The Witches: Salem, 1692

The Witches by Stacy Schiff
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bookshelves: history, read-in-2015

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 constitution. Work and church were the order of the day and with no outlet for creativity or play, people (especially adolescent girls) let their imaginations run rampant into their reality. The constant threat of French and Indian attacks certainly helped to keep people continuously on edge.

The list of people indexed at the beginning of the book lets us know that this will be a dense, sometimes impenetrable tale told from many sources and viewpoints. A week-to-week timeline might have also been helpful. Once the trials and executions begin and the blanket of suspicion falls on a greater number of people you almost have to forget about keeping track and just read on for the basic story. Of course, to give each person their proper due would have taken a multi-volume series of books so you have to give credit to the author for being as thorough as possible in 500 pages while still being readable and engrossing. Her modern day analysis of why things happened as they did makes sense but we will never really know the truth since so many official sources of information were destroyed in an effort to wipe the whole unfortunate event from history. I'm no expert on this period of American history but I have to imagine that this will be required reading for anyone interested in the witch trials, New England in the 17th century or even the psychology of mobs.
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Reading Progress

September 8, 2015 – Started Reading
September 8, 2015 – Shelved
September 18, 2015 – Shelved as: history
September 18, 2015 – Shelved as: read-in-2015
September 18, 2015 – Finished Reading

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