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In Defense of Witches: The Legacy of the Witch Hunts and Why Women Are Still on Trial

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Mona Chollet's In Defense of Witches is a “brilliant, well-documented” celebration (Le Monde) by an acclaimed French feminist of the witch as a symbol of female rebellion and independence in the face of misogyny and persecution. Centuries after the infamous witch hunts that swept through Europe and America, witches continue to hold a unique fascination for many: as fairy ta Mona Chollet's In Defense of Witches is a “brilliant, well-documented” celebration (Le Monde) by an acclaimed French feminist of the witch as a symbol of female rebellion and independence in the face of misogyny and persecution. Centuries after the infamous witch hunts that swept through Europe and America, witches continue to hold a unique fascination for many: as fairy tale villains, practitioners of pagan religion, as well as feminist icons. Witches are both the ultimate victim and the stubborn, elusive rebel. But who were the women who were accused and often killed for witchcraft? What types of women have centuries of terror censored, eliminated, and repressed? Celebrated feminist writer Mona Chollet explores three types of women who were accused of witchcraft and persecuted: the independent woman, since widows and celibates were particularly targeted; the childless woman, since the time of the hunts marked the end of tolerance for those who claimed to control their fertility; and the elderly woman, who has always been an object of at best, pity, and at worst, horror. Examining modern society, Chollet concludes that these women continue to be harrassed and oppressed. Rather than being a brief moment in history, the persecution of witches is an example of society’s seemingly eternal misogyny, while women today are direct heirs to those who were hunted down and killed for their thoughts and actions. With fiery prose and arguments that range from the scholarly to the cultural, In Defense of Witches seeks to unite the mythic image of the witch with modern women who seek to live their lives on their own terms.


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Mona Chollet's In Defense of Witches is a “brilliant, well-documented” celebration (Le Monde) by an acclaimed French feminist of the witch as a symbol of female rebellion and independence in the face of misogyny and persecution. Centuries after the infamous witch hunts that swept through Europe and America, witches continue to hold a unique fascination for many: as fairy ta Mona Chollet's In Defense of Witches is a “brilliant, well-documented” celebration (Le Monde) by an acclaimed French feminist of the witch as a symbol of female rebellion and independence in the face of misogyny and persecution. Centuries after the infamous witch hunts that swept through Europe and America, witches continue to hold a unique fascination for many: as fairy tale villains, practitioners of pagan religion, as well as feminist icons. Witches are both the ultimate victim and the stubborn, elusive rebel. But who were the women who were accused and often killed for witchcraft? What types of women have centuries of terror censored, eliminated, and repressed? Celebrated feminist writer Mona Chollet explores three types of women who were accused of witchcraft and persecuted: the independent woman, since widows and celibates were particularly targeted; the childless woman, since the time of the hunts marked the end of tolerance for those who claimed to control their fertility; and the elderly woman, who has always been an object of at best, pity, and at worst, horror. Examining modern society, Chollet concludes that these women continue to be harrassed and oppressed. Rather than being a brief moment in history, the persecution of witches is an example of society’s seemingly eternal misogyny, while women today are direct heirs to those who were hunted down and killed for their thoughts and actions. With fiery prose and arguments that range from the scholarly to the cultural, In Defense of Witches seeks to unite the mythic image of the witch with modern women who seek to live their lives on their own terms.

30 review for In Defense of Witches: The Legacy of the Witch Hunts and Why Women Are Still on Trial

  1. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth Bedlam

    Had some high points, and was mostly just fine. The parts about women hating marriage, fearing children, but giving in because of societal pressure (among other things) therefore becoming a husk of their former selves, aw a story as old as time...

  2. 4 out of 5

    Miya (in a puddle of pain)

    If you have ever been interested in the witch trials, persecution of women, the stereotypes of women in their own power or connected to nature...read this book. There is so much more to it than that, but to unravel all that is spoken in these pages is difficult. It is hard to read knowing that there has been so much unnecessary hate and violence. There are so many emotions and thoughts to process after reading it. Really makes you pause are rethink things. It is a much needed book in these times If you have ever been interested in the witch trials, persecution of women, the stereotypes of women in their own power or connected to nature...read this book. There is so much more to it than that, but to unravel all that is spoken in these pages is difficult. It is hard to read knowing that there has been so much unnecessary hate and violence. There are so many emotions and thoughts to process after reading it. Really makes you pause are rethink things. It is a much needed book in these times. I am very grateful to have read it. Highly recommend.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Tine

    I read this book with the expectation that contemporary gender culture and misogyny would be analysed in their historicity and in the context of witch hunts. A contemporary continuation, so to speak, of Silvia Federici's Caliban and the Witch (according to some reviews, I was not the only one with that expectation). Although the book provides some relevant points, the historical connection happens poorly and very confusingly. Actually, the introduction already provides all the insight (and some I read this book with the expectation that contemporary gender culture and misogyny would be analysed in their historicity and in the context of witch hunts. A contemporary continuation, so to speak, of Silvia Federici's Caliban and the Witch (according to some reviews, I was not the only one with that expectation). Although the book provides some relevant points, the historical connection happens poorly and very confusingly. Actually, the introduction already provides all the insight (and some good fun facts) and the remaining chapters are the author's rambling (personal) thoughts on feminism in general, with sparse, unsystematic references to witches and lots of references to popular culture (which are tediously repetitive - one sometimes gets the feeling that this is a book about Gloria Steinem).

  4. 5 out of 5

    s.penkevich

    If you don’t hear from me, I have joined a coven and am living my best life.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Geoff

    Really interesting book when it focuses on the history of witches, witchhunts, historical oppression of independent women, and the use of witches as a feminist metaphor. The book becomes a bit more mundane in the last third when it covers important issues like marriage, the medical establishment, looks, etc. but from a more straightforward non-witch focused point of view. Also quite interesting to see a French point of view on feminist theory and issues. **Thanks to the author, publisher, and Net Really interesting book when it focuses on the history of witches, witchhunts, historical oppression of independent women, and the use of witches as a feminist metaphor. The book becomes a bit more mundane in the last third when it covers important issues like marriage, the medical establishment, looks, etc. but from a more straightforward non-witch focused point of view. Also quite interesting to see a French point of view on feminist theory and issues. **Thanks to the author, publisher, and NetGalley for a free copy in exchange for an honest review.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Britta Böhler

    A bit of a disappointment to be honest. One of the four parts was really good (chptr. 3, about ageism), but the other three I found rather 'meh'. A bit of a disappointment to be honest. One of the four parts was really good (chptr. 3, about ageism), but the other three I found rather 'meh'.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Gina

    It took me a while to read this because the book was so important to me. The name drew me in, the content did the same. This book looks at not only the sordid history of the burning of innocent women accused of being witches in Salem and elsewhere, but establishes how that history is still influential today. The term "witch" itself conjures various images and most of those revolve around poorly drawn cartoons, demonic looking and raggedy clad old and evil women, and movies that include wicked witc It took me a while to read this because the book was so important to me. The name drew me in, the content did the same. This book looks at not only the sordid history of the burning of innocent women accused of being witches in Salem and elsewhere, but establishes how that history is still influential today. The term "witch" itself conjures various images and most of those revolve around poorly drawn cartoons, demonic looking and raggedy clad old and evil women, and movies that include wicked witches. The truth about witches is far more than that and far less evil and ugly. In today's world, a woman deemed to be too independent, too sure of herself, too aware of her self worth, and just plain solitary are sometimes called "witch", using the term in a most derogatory manner not fitting with the true definition of the word. Read this book and become educated.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Appoline Piotrowski

    I'm not saying this is a bad book, or a bad essay. Not at all. My issue is that I felt it was more about feminism in general (with a dash of witches peppered from time to time) than an essay about witchcraft and feminism (in that aspect, if the entire book had been like the introduction, where the author was talking about modern witchcraft and its links to feminism, it would have been perfect). So it wasn't what I expected, and I felt a bit disappointed by it. I'm not saying this is a bad book, or a bad essay. Not at all. My issue is that I felt it was more about feminism in general (with a dash of witches peppered from time to time) than an essay about witchcraft and feminism (in that aspect, if the entire book had been like the introduction, where the author was talking about modern witchcraft and its links to feminism, it would have been perfect). So it wasn't what I expected, and I felt a bit disappointed by it.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Joanka

    Mona Chollet wrote a fascinating beginning to her Sorcières – she shows her readers how today’s satiation of women is straightforwardly connected with burning witches and the whole persecution of women and their independence under the pretext of witchcraft. Too early, unfortunately, she leaves the past and studies the situation and independence of women these days. Sadly, her model of feminism, although I respect it and agree with her many points, is something I don’t feel and on the whole don’t Mona Chollet wrote a fascinating beginning to her Sorcières – she shows her readers how today’s satiation of women is straightforwardly connected with burning witches and the whole persecution of women and their independence under the pretext of witchcraft. Too early, unfortunately, she leaves the past and studies the situation and independence of women these days. Sadly, her model of feminism, although I respect it and agree with her many points, is something I don’t feel and on the whole don’t really agree with. What she proposes is mostly resignation that for her is freedom but won’t be for everyone. For me, it’s not. I prefer looking for ways of changing the way society works, how the mindsets of people are shaped, and not resign from a relationship or motherhood. For Chollet these are obsolete constructs and the explanation she offers, although she tries to see it more broadly, I give her that, is that women don’t really want these things but are manipulated by patriarchy into believing they do. I’m not saying it’s not the case. But it’s not always the case, in many situations this is not the case and I found it unfair. Also, the whole musing about relationships seemed way too heteronormative for me. Finally, not every woman has to pursue career as her way to reach happiness, and achieving satisfaction might be done on many levels and in many ways. I also thought that my generation is already different. Of course, many families would press their children to have children but around people our age I really never heard such comments. There is nothing strange in not having children these days, I often heard “what made you decide to have kids?” (which I find a valid question, why not), and the author’s astonishment she’s in minority was slightly strange for me. I abandoned this book because Chollet treated me as a lost cause already and wasn’t offering much in return that would make me think or inspire to act. I’m not saying it’s a bad book, not at all! I am sure you will find many interesting ideas here and many of your own thoughts uttered. For me was too depressive in a way I can’t stand right now.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Marine

    An absolute must-read. So informative and important ❤️

  11. 5 out of 5

    Nathan Shuherk

    The narrative of women equating to witches/witch hunts was pretty foundational early on, but lost the thread as the book continues. Important perspectives on womanhood that focus on multinational perspectives and a lot of very interesting vignettes. Not perfect for me, but know people will enjoy this quite easily.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Amanda Hupe

    Thank you, NetGalley, Mona Chollet, and St. Martin’s Press for the opportunity to read this book. It releases on March 8th, 2022. “By wiping out entire families, by inducing a reign of terror and by pitilessly oppressing certain behaviors and practices that had come to be seen as unacceptable, the witch-hunts contributed to the shaping the world we live in now. Had they not occurred, we would probably be living in very different societies.” IN DEFENSE OF WITCHES It always amazed me how many people Thank you, NetGalley, Mona Chollet, and St. Martin’s Press for the opportunity to read this book. It releases on March 8th, 2022. “By wiping out entire families, by inducing a reign of terror and by pitilessly oppressing certain behaviors and practices that had come to be seen as unacceptable, the witch-hunts contributed to the shaping the world we live in now. Had they not occurred, we would probably be living in very different societies.” IN DEFENSE OF WITCHES It always amazed me how many people in America were only aware of the Salem Witch Trials, not the reign of terror that swept Europe for centuries, that claimed the lives of thousands of women. Not only that, they don’t know that witch-hunts still occur today. In Northern Ghana, there are at least six witch camps. In Defense of Witches by Mona Chollet analyzes the treatment of women since the witch-hunts and how they contributed to the shaping of our society today. She looks at 3 main aspects: independent women, childless women, and elderly women. Women are not alone in being persecuted as witches. Men have also fallen victim to accusations but they make up a considerably smaller percentage and most men that were accused were more likely to receive a trial. It shows that the witch trials were deeply rooted in sexism and misogyny. “The campaign led between 1507 and 1593 in twenty-two villages in the region of Trier, In Germany–the starting point and also the epicenter, along with Switzerland, of the witch hunts–was so relentless that two of the villages, only one woman was left alive; in total 368 women were burned.” IN DEFENSE OF WITCHES Historians believe that approximately 50,000 to 100,000 women were executed but this does not include those who were murdered, committed suicide, died in prison, or died from the torture inflicted on them. Many women were banished, reduced to live the rest of their lives in extreme poverty, and suffered from more abuse. The accusations were often associated with meeting with the devil and therefore had religious connections. Oftentimes, Jews were included in these accusations because there were claims that women and Jews wanted to attack Christianity. In 1233, Pope Gregory IX proclaimed that cats were the devil’s servants, and in 1484 Pope Innocent VIII proclaimed that cats that were with women were considered familiars, and the cats were burned along with the accused. This actually led to the rise of rats and because of that…the rise of disease—which was blamed on witches. This book is a powerhouse of information and not pleasant information. One cannot help but feel angry. Independent women-the unmarried and widows were seen as unnatural as they didn’t have a man for guidance. The childless woman insinuated that she was heartless because who wouldn’t want a child. There has always been the criminalization of contraception and abortion. Then the elderly woman is seen as a woman who has outlived her usefulness and their experience is seen as a problem. But I also appreciated how in the fight for equality, the author dives into how white women left women of color behind in that fight and how privilege plays a factor. While the argument is precise and organized, it does end abruptly. Some arguments had a tendency to be a little repetitive, but I overall thought the book is very well researched. I rate this book 5 out of 5 stars.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Patches

    Just perfect

  14. 5 out of 5

    agata

    3.5 stars, rounded up. In Defense of Witches is a non-fiction book about the connections between witch hunts and modern-day feminism. It explores the three types of women who were accused of witchcraft most often: the childless, the elder, the independent. It's easy to notice that these archetypes are also the ones most judged in today's world: our society constantly evaluates women based on their age, their relationship status, and their fertility. The history of witch hunts, which mostly comes 3.5 stars, rounded up. In Defense of Witches is a non-fiction book about the connections between witch hunts and modern-day feminism. It explores the three types of women who were accused of witchcraft most often: the childless, the elder, the independent. It's easy to notice that these archetypes are also the ones most judged in today's world: our society constantly evaluates women based on their age, their relationship status, and their fertility. The history of witch hunts, which mostly comes up in the introduction to the book, is truly fascinating. As Chollet mentions, there isn't another mass crime in human history that is treated with such lightheartedness. We tend to think of witches either as scary horror characters or more modern 'girlbosses' with crystals and sage from Amazon, and we often forget that these women were real people who died for no reason. In the later chapters, Chollet mostly focuses on the way we treat women today, and while that is equal parts interesting and enraging, I wish we got more of the history of witch hunts. I was very happy that Chollet's approach to the feminism she writes about is intersectional, and she doesn't focus only on white women. Overall, In Defense of Witches is a well-researched and thought-provoking read that uses a horrifying moment in history to help us understand why our society looks the way it does currently.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Chazza

    A great collation of feminist debates and struggles that are still so present in a society where some claim that equality has been reached. I especially loved the chapter on the pressures to have a child due to the fact as someone who, when saying that you have no desire to be a mother, will 9 times out of 10 get the classic 'wait until you find someone/get older etc' Feminism is the freedom of choice, not the freedom to make the same choice as you xxx It loses the last star on the basis that som A great collation of feminist debates and struggles that are still so present in a society where some claim that equality has been reached. I especially loved the chapter on the pressures to have a child due to the fact as someone who, when saying that you have no desire to be a mother, will 9 times out of 10 get the classic 'wait until you find someone/get older etc' Feminism is the freedom of choice, not the freedom to make the same choice as you xxx It loses the last star on the basis that some may not be accessible to everyone.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Małgorzata Hermanowicz

    To some extent I was hoping to read more about the witches of the past than the witches lives today. In my head, I have a lot of question marks when I think about this book, namely: aint that story too simple to be true? However, I will always be grateful for the fact that there are women brave enough to do research and ask questions: I recognize a lot of my freedom as an effect of this kind of work.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Regina

    This is really a 4.5. Excellent all around.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Nicole

    I got pretty far into it and realized, though I was enjoying listening to the info, I did not absorb any of it. It was a good laugh at times and sad at others. Well written/narrated always

  19. 5 out of 5

    zoé

    a must read for everyone. i cannot stress enough how fundamentally important this book is

  20. 5 out of 5

    Lou | haus + hearth

    In Defense of Witches is one of the best books non-fiction books I’ve read in years. This is not lighthearted fare but a well researched, seriously deep dive into the social conditioning of/surrounding women and how we’re perceived, treated, expected to behave/live our lives, etc…The ways we’re conditioned to consider the (mis)treatment of women are so pervasive that we often don’t even notice/acknowledge them consciously until they’re spelled out for us…and this book SPELLS IT OUT in an unflinc In Defense of Witches is one of the best books non-fiction books I’ve read in years. This is not lighthearted fare but a well researched, seriously deep dive into the social conditioning of/surrounding women and how we’re perceived, treated, expected to behave/live our lives, etc…The ways we’re conditioned to consider the (mis)treatment of women are so pervasive that we often don’t even notice/acknowledge them consciously until they’re spelled out for us…and this book SPELLS IT OUT in an unflinchingly honest way that you can’t ignore or unsee, and I think that’s so important and necessary. The section on motherhood was especially poignant for me and brought up a lot of intense emotions. I think so many women will find it so relatable, it gives words and life to emotions/feelings/thoughts so many of us have about our experiences that we feel obligated to politely ignore or suppress. I can’t even begin to count how many sections I highlighted, how many times my eyes filled with tears, or how many times I screamed UGHHHH YESS! in my head while reading this book. This should honestly be a must-read for every female identifying person, and probably everyone else besides as well. I will absolutely be recommending it to all the women in my life and making sure my own daughter reads it when she’s older. Thank you so much to St Martins Press for providing me with this eARC.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Lizzie

    Eminently readable and impassioned, this book was a lot of fun (feminism without the hatred I sometimes end up feel towards all men) but at times was a mite too analogical and far fetched for me. In particular, I wasn't a massive fan on her section on maths and science in which she suggested we alter maths and science to a more female way of thinking. She did acknowledge that this might seem (and indeed to me it does seem to be) a sexist way of thinking - after all what’s stopping women thinking Eminently readable and impassioned, this book was a lot of fun (feminism without the hatred I sometimes end up feel towards all men) but at times was a mite too analogical and far fetched for me. In particular, I wasn't a massive fan on her section on maths and science in which she suggested we alter maths and science to a more female way of thinking. She did acknowledge that this might seem (and indeed to me it does seem to be) a sexist way of thinking - after all what’s stopping women thinking in a mathematical way???? - and offers a counterargument, however it was one I couldn’t understand so I was left feeling rather disgruntled by that section. Asides from that, her discussion on motherhood, independence, the science behind birth and where birthing practices actually come from, growing old and the medical discipline where all fascinating to me and there was a lot there I didn't know or hadn't considered as she considers them. Sometimes I did feel a bit of a generational gap between this (I'm nineteen after all) and felt that certain things didn't apply to me but that might be naivety on my part. Overall, would definitely recommend. It’s easy and thought provoking and not too rage inducing. Has largely put me off men and children though…

  22. 4 out of 5

    Iina

    I AM IN A RAGE. Not with this book or its author, but with the world we live in. Chollet dissects the witch through three themes from our current world: an independent woman, a childless woman, and an aging woman. All three are horrors to society at large, and Chollet ties these things to adjacent problems (such as racism). The final chapter focuses on the body, nature and especially medicine, and wraps up the discussion, but leaving me even more angry. I enjoyed reading this (as much as a femini I AM IN A RAGE. Not with this book or its author, but with the world we live in. Chollet dissects the witch through three themes from our current world: an independent woman, a childless woman, and an aging woman. All three are horrors to society at large, and Chollet ties these things to adjacent problems (such as racism). The final chapter focuses on the body, nature and especially medicine, and wraps up the discussion, but leaving me even more angry. I enjoyed reading this (as much as a feminist can ever enjoy a feminist societal analysis), but feel like the four chapters were more like four essays on different topics in many ways, and are better treated as such. It was also refreshing to read a book like this written by a non-UK, non-US writer for a change. Definitely pick this up if you, like me, loved De Beauvoir’s Second Sex, or are curious about the legacy of witches, or if you are a woman or know one. Thank you to the publisher for my advance review copy of this book.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Verónica Fleitas Solich

    Sad that at this point in the history of mankind, we need a book to expose the issues discussed here. Recommended for men and women who may be interested in expanding their minds and understanding other points of view. On the other hand, happy that there is a book that gives voice to my way of thinking, among other things.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Richard Propes

    Not nearly as provocative as its title might suggest, Mona Chollet's "In Defense of Witches: The Legacy of the Witch Hunts and Why Women Are Still on Trial" explores three types of women who were accused of witchcraft and persecuted: 1) The Independent Woman - especially celibates and widows 2) The Childless Woman 3) The Elderly Woman Working within this framework, noted French feminist Chollet crafts an extensively resourced and researched collection of prose, personal reflections, and critical the Not nearly as provocative as its title might suggest, Mona Chollet's "In Defense of Witches: The Legacy of the Witch Hunts and Why Women Are Still on Trial" explores three types of women who were accused of witchcraft and persecuted: 1) The Independent Woman - especially celibates and widows 2) The Childless Woman 3) The Elderly Woman Working within this framework, noted French feminist Chollet crafts an extensively resourced and researched collection of prose, personal reflections, and critical theory in determining that the legacy of the witch hunts continues and, as I think would likely surprise no one, women continue to be on trial in ways very directly connected to those witch hunts of yesteryear to this day. If you're expecting some sort of poetic journey through the world of witchcraft, you will likely find "In Defense of Witches" a tiresome and perhaps even meandering read. Chollet, unsurprisingly for those who know her work, leans far more heavily into feminism than the fantastic and is absolutely relentless about doing so. While the structure of "In Defense of Witches" may seem loose, it's a book that rewards those who persevere with it through the very end as Chollet's structure really comes to life when seen through the lens of its wholeness and it's Chollet's ability to argue both academically and personally that makes this a particularly impactful and effective work. You may not agree with everything that Chollet writes, and if you're not a feminist you likely won't, but it's practically undeniable that Chollet argues well and she documents precisely and beautifully. There's a thin line of emotional resonance that radiates throughout the pages of "In Defense of Witches," a bit surprising given Chollet's devotion to academics but a line that gives the book an additional layer of power. "In Defense of Witches," I would dare say, is also a wee bit funny especially when Chollet lays into herself for her occasionally living into those gender stereotypes she works so passionately to derail. I'm not sure I'd be considered the target audience for "In Defense of Witches," though I enjoyed it thoroughly and am undoubtedly influenced by it. I had to laugh a bit as I arrived about 2/3 of the way through the book only to realize I'd arrived at book's end with the remainder of its pages largely devoted to Chollet's remarkably extensive source material. The ultimate conclusion, if you will, is that these witch hunts from the past continue in the present and are far from some romanticized period in our history. Indeed, they deserve to not be romanticized but to be permanently placed in the past along with all the other cultural and institutionalized forms of misogyny. Women have always been hunted down and killed for their thoughts and actions, though the methods have changed and the justifications varied. With intelligence, insight, and tremendous wisdom, Mona Chollet has crafted an engaging and influential journey through feminism past and present and the price that women continue to pay for being women.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Elisa

    HEKSEN ('Witches') by Mona Chollet is a non-fiction book on witches and she advocates rehabilitation for the female rebel. It took me two weeks to read this book, which is extremely rare for me. I was wondering why this was the case after finishing the book and I think it has multiple reasons. For one, I'm currently writing my thesis, so a dense non-fiction book is not very easy to read, so perhaps I should have read this book at a different time. In addition, I didn't particularly like Chollet' HEKSEN ('Witches') by Mona Chollet is a non-fiction book on witches and she advocates rehabilitation for the female rebel. It took me two weeks to read this book, which is extremely rare for me. I was wondering why this was the case after finishing the book and I think it has multiple reasons. For one, I'm currently writing my thesis, so a dense non-fiction book is not very easy to read, so perhaps I should have read this book at a different time. In addition, I didn't particularly like Chollet's writing style. She uses a lot of demonstratives, without it being clear what she's referring to, a lot of the information seems 'randomly' put together, so this is not a very cohesive text to read. However, I do like the fact that this is a feminist text from a French point of view; something I wasn't familiar with yet (I have read Dutch/English/American feminist texts) and as such it opened my eyes to a whole lot of different feminist problems in our current society. The book essentially consists of four parts, each addressing different issues in our society: independence, infertility, the image of the old 'hag', and war against women (in our histories). These chapters are preceded by a lengthy introduction. Some chapters seemed very chaotic, especially the introduction and the fourth chapter. I'm a little conflicted about this book, because I liked the information, but the writing style (or perhaps the translation?) made this book very difficult to read and attenuated the underlying message of the book I'm afraid. I'm rating this book with ★★★☆☆

  26. 4 out of 5

    Jessica Rushing

    Thank you to Netgalley for providing an ARC in exchange for an honest review. Book available March 2022 from St. Martin’s Press. A powerful review of how the word witch is at once synonymous with “female” and “bad” to this day, as well as references to all the witches in storylore we love to hate and love to love. Fun fact: Glinda, from The Wizard of Oz, was the first mainstream “good witch” and was based on L. Frank Baum’s mother-in-law. While there is a lot going on in these pages (from how the Thank you to Netgalley for providing an ARC in exchange for an honest review. Book available March 2022 from St. Martin’s Press. A powerful review of how the word witch is at once synonymous with “female” and “bad” to this day, as well as references to all the witches in storylore we love to hate and love to love. Fun fact: Glinda, from The Wizard of Oz, was the first mainstream “good witch” and was based on L. Frank Baum’s mother-in-law. While there is a lot going on in these pages (from how the term “witch hunt” has diminished the true meaning and tragedy of what victims of historical witch hunts endured to welfare to sexuality to the work-life balance of working mothers and whether or not that is a narcissistic endeavor), it is compiled with purpose. I enjoyed the nods to every storylore witch I could think of, and some I had not heard of (I have added The Glassblower’s Children to my to-read list). I also enjoyed the way the author tried connecting the dots between history and current events. Although this is not something I would normally read, it was mostly engaging. I felt, however, that all of what was expanded on in the book was given in short in the introduction, and made the book itself exhaustive and extensive, like a book report gone on too long. A lot of clever connections and nods, but I feel it could have been re-edited and condensed.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Pamela Usai

    CW/TW: mentions of misogyny, sexism, murder, graphic death, gaslighting, micro-aggressions If you're looking for an unconventional way to celebrate the achievements of women, then consider reading In Defence of Witches, by Mona Chollet, translated from the original French. Viewing the fight for women's independence through the lens of withcraft, Chollet deconstructs three achetypes : women who are independent, women who choose to note have children, and women who reject ageism. Starting from the CW/TW: mentions of misogyny, sexism, murder, graphic death, gaslighting, micro-aggressions If you're looking for an unconventional way to celebrate the achievements of women, then consider reading In Defence of Witches, by Mona Chollet, translated from the original French. Viewing the fight for women's independence through the lens of withcraft, Chollet deconstructs three achetypes : women who are independent, women who choose to note have children, and women who reject ageism. Starting from the historic witch hunts, and traveling through history to modern day, Chollet highlights the patriarchal underpinnings towards the vilification of women who have sought to define themselves as autonomous individuals. This book is, despite what the title may suggest, not a ghoulish read. Rather, it is an opinionated, and candidly feminist take on how history has looked unfavorably on women who have broken social expectations. The witch, according to Chollet, became a derogatory term to punish those who strayed, whether by refusing to have children, or by speaking their minds. (Disclaimer: the book predominantly on the historical experiences of cis-gender women, as the historical material examined is from a Western European - Christian lens). Thank you to Book Break UK, PanMacmillan UK and Mona Chollet for a copy of this ARC in return for an honest review.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Trisha

    very curious about this one. A huge thank you to the author and publisher for providing an e-ARC via Netgalley. This does not affect my opinion regarding the book.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Rhiannon Johnson

    I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. It is easy to see why and how the symbol of the witch is embraced and celebrated by the modern female, for "the witch embodies woman free of all domination, all limitation; she is an ideal to aim for; she shows us the way." Recently, I have found myself turning up my nose at a lot of current witch/witchcraft "trends." Author Mona Chollet helped me figure out why this adoption by mainstream society bothered me so m I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. It is easy to see why and how the symbol of the witch is embraced and celebrated by the modern female, for "the witch embodies woman free of all domination, all limitation; she is an ideal to aim for; she shows us the way." Recently, I have found myself turning up my nose at a lot of current witch/witchcraft "trends." Author Mona Chollet helped me figure out why this adoption by mainstream society bothered me so much. It is because "nowadays, witches have become a neo-liberal girlboss-style icon. That is to say, capitalism has gotten ahold of her; and, like so many things capitalism touches, she is in danger of dissociating from her radical roots." She elaborated on these trends, and absolutely blew my mind when she described its commercial cycle "whether a spiritual and/or a political practice, witchcraft is also an aesthetic, a fashion . . . and a lucrative money-spinner. It has its hashtags on Instagram and its virtual aisles on Etsy, its influencers and its indie entrepreneurs, selling their spells, candles, grimoires, superfoods, essential oils and crystals online. Witchcraft is a fashion inspiration; the big brands are adopting and adapting it. And there’s nothing surprising in this: after all, capitalism is always engaged in selling back to us in product form all that it has first destroyed." 🤯(brb, gonna stare at the wall and ponder this for awhile.) I've studied how paganism's eco-conscious and spiritual aspects align with most modern witchcraft practices. I've also extensively studied how patriarchal laws and practices contributed to female oppression in the guise of "witchhunts." While I love reading books and watching shows and movies about fun women with magical powers, I'm also constantly craving the deeper analysis and theory provided by Chollet. Hollywood witches are fun, but read this if you want a deeper understanding of the witch as a symbol. Come chat with me about books here, too: Blog | Instagram | Twitter | Pinterest

  30. 5 out of 5

    Simona

    I have to admit: I hadn't heard much about Mona Chollet and her writing until now. Initially, when I picked this book, I thought it would be about the notorious European witch trials in the Medieval era and the history of witches. However, this book is not about the history of witches but more about the perception of "the witch" in our society. Who is she today? According to Chollet, the modern archetypal witch is a woman unwilling to conform to society's "normal" rules and imbued with tremendou I have to admit: I hadn't heard much about Mona Chollet and her writing until now. Initially, when I picked this book, I thought it would be about the notorious European witch trials in the Medieval era and the history of witches. However, this book is not about the history of witches but more about the perception of "the witch" in our society. Who is she today? According to Chollet, the modern archetypal witch is a woman unwilling to conform to society's "normal" rules and imbued with tremendous power. Power to decide whether to procreate, follow beauty standards, or go the other way. There's also a lot of sadness and anger in this book, which is justified, especially when you read chapters on the medical mistreatment of women throughout the history of our society. In short, all topics are sensitive in this book, but, at the same time, that's why they are worth discussing and talking about. This book has definitely opened me up and encouraged me to reflect on certain topics. I'm also interested in discovering other texts by Mona Chollet and other women writers mentioned in the book - particularly Gloria Steinem.

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