Monday, October 05, 2009

cunning women

After a summer trip to New England to research my own bewitching Salem roots, I was happy to borrow a copy of The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane and see what the author brought to the endlessly fascinating and heartbreaking history of the Salem, MA witch hysteria in 1692.

Hmmm. It is a first novel, so I don't want to be too harsh. And there are some very enjoyable aspects to the story, especially the budding romance the protagonist Connie has with a handsome, punky steeplejack named Sam. The setting of Connie's grandmother's house in Marblehead, MA was also well-drawn, as were some of the glimpses into the past of divers women in Salem. So, there is quite a bit to enjoy.

However...there is also the annoying and inconsistent attempt to phonetically spell out the New England accent. Enough, already. And for a circa 1991 Harvard grad student, I'm afraid Connie is hopelessly dim. She has no insight into just about everything—animal, vegetable or mineral, which make up the plot—most of which is fairly obvious, at least to this reader, as soon as Connie steps into her grandmother's house.

But I quibble. It's still a fun read, although I'd wait for it at the library, or until it hits paperback, if you want to make a purchase. With all its faults, it screams movie adaptation, as most of those could be tightened up in a sharp screenplay. We'll see. It's also a fun glimpse not only into the past, but into our society just under twenty years ago, before cell phones and the internet made a lot of Connie's isolation and running around looking for clues unnecessary. Some generations take huge shifts to change, if at all, while other changes can come quickly, in under a quarter of a century. I do agree with Connie on a few things. Sam is an attractive character and human history is always incredibly fascinating.
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