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The Bewitching

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'A literary page-turner . . . compulsive and thought-provoking' Paula Hawkins A dazzling, shocking novel that speaks to our times, drawing on the 16th-century case of the witches of Warboys. Alice Samuel might be old and sharp-tongued, but she's no fool. Visiting her new neighbours in her Fenland village, she suspects Squire Throckmorton's household is not as God-fearing as 'A literary page-turner . . . compulsive and thought-provoking' Paula Hawkins A dazzling, shocking novel that speaks to our times, drawing on the 16th-century case of the witches of Warboys. Alice Samuel might be old and sharp-tongued, but she's no fool. Visiting her new neighbours in her Fenland village, she suspects Squire Throckmorton's household is not as God-fearing as it seems and finds the children troubled. Yet when one of the daughters accuses her of witchcraft, Alice has no inkling of how quickly matters will escalate and fails to grasp the danger she is in. As evidence mounts against Alice, soon the entire village is swept up in the frenzied persecution of one of their own community. Exploring a neglected episode of English history to powerful effect, The Bewitching vividly conveys the brutal tribalism that can erupt in a closed society and how victims can be made to believe in their own wickedness.


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'A literary page-turner . . . compulsive and thought-provoking' Paula Hawkins A dazzling, shocking novel that speaks to our times, drawing on the 16th-century case of the witches of Warboys. Alice Samuel might be old and sharp-tongued, but she's no fool. Visiting her new neighbours in her Fenland village, she suspects Squire Throckmorton's household is not as God-fearing as 'A literary page-turner . . . compulsive and thought-provoking' Paula Hawkins A dazzling, shocking novel that speaks to our times, drawing on the 16th-century case of the witches of Warboys. Alice Samuel might be old and sharp-tongued, but she's no fool. Visiting her new neighbours in her Fenland village, she suspects Squire Throckmorton's household is not as God-fearing as it seems and finds the children troubled. Yet when one of the daughters accuses her of witchcraft, Alice has no inkling of how quickly matters will escalate and fails to grasp the danger she is in. As evidence mounts against Alice, soon the entire village is swept up in the frenzied persecution of one of their own community. Exploring a neglected episode of English history to powerful effect, The Bewitching vividly conveys the brutal tribalism that can erupt in a closed society and how victims can be made to believe in their own wickedness.

30 review for The Bewitching

  1. 5 out of 5

    Annarella

    A fascinating, atmospheric, and gripping historical fiction about The Witches of Warboys trial. It's the fascinating portrait of an era and of the atmosphere around a the trials. It starts with voices and, as it often happened, the accused is an old woman who dabbles in herbs and healing. The story is told by Martha, an interesting character that knew all the people involved. The historical background is well researched and vivid, it's like reading a real diary. The characters are fleshed out and it A fascinating, atmospheric, and gripping historical fiction about The Witches of Warboys trial. It's the fascinating portrait of an era and of the atmosphere around a the trials. It starts with voices and, as it often happened, the accused is an old woman who dabbles in herbs and healing. The story is told by Martha, an interesting character that knew all the people involved. The historical background is well researched and vivid, it's like reading a real diary. The characters are fleshed out and it's interesting to read about the mix of paranoia and power play. Highly recommended. Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for this ARC, all opinions are mine

  2. 4 out of 5

    Jen Burrows

    The Bewitching is a compelling novel about Elizabethan womanhood and witchcraft. There have been quite a few British historical novels about witches of late, and I was interested to see how The Bewitching would approach the topic. Dawson captures the specific nuances of Elizabethan witchcraft well, and there is historical research woven seamlessly throughout the narrative. While it's possible to predict some of the plot twists, that doesn't undermine the sinister atmosphere and the very tangible The Bewitching is a compelling novel about Elizabethan womanhood and witchcraft. There have been quite a few British historical novels about witches of late, and I was interested to see how The Bewitching would approach the topic. Dawson captures the specific nuances of Elizabethan witchcraft well, and there is historical research woven seamlessly throughout the narrative. While it's possible to predict some of the plot twists, that doesn't undermine the sinister atmosphere and the very tangible sense of tension brewing. Martha is an engaging narrator: caught somewhere between the Throckmorton family and the servants, she is able to piece together different parts fo the story. Alice is delighfully difficult: unlikeable and sympathetic all at once. If you know anything about the witches of Warboys, the ending is a given, but Dawson still manages to make this retelling a real page-turner. *Thank you to Netgalley for the arc in exchange for an honest review*

  3. 5 out of 5

    Katie

    23.08.2022 The Bewitching tells the story of the real trial of the witches of Warboys from the 1590s. Alice Samuel is a sharp-tongued wise woman - she helps her community with her herbal remedies, cures ailments and helps ease the dangers of childbirth. When Alice visits the Throckmorton household to try to ease their youngest daughter’s fits, she is shocked to find herself accused of bewitching the young Jane. She has been labelled a witch. As evidence mounts, accusations are thrown, neighbour 23.08.2022 The Bewitching tells the story of the real trial of the witches of Warboys from the 1590s. Alice Samuel is a sharp-tongued wise woman - she helps her community with her herbal remedies, cures ailments and helps ease the dangers of childbirth. When Alice visits the Throckmorton household to try to ease their youngest daughter’s fits, she is shocked to find herself accused of bewitching the young Jane. She has been labelled a witch. As evidence mounts, accusations are thrown, neighbour turns on neighbour, and Alice finds herself in the middle of a witch hunt. This story is told from the alternating perspectives of Alice, the main accused witch, and Martha, the loyal servant of the Throckmorton family. While this did serve the story well in terms of getting a full picture of how both parties were reacting to the accusations and ‘possessions’ of the girls, I do feel like Alice’s POV needed to be more developed earlier on in the book. I only really felt like I understood her character within the last 50 or so pages. Which is such a shame! As I think her perspective would’ve been a really interesting one to read more and delve into - the anxiety, how victims can come to believe in their own wickedness, how it feels to have everyone turn against you. While I do think the story took a little too long to get going for me, it really did pay off in the end! It all came together so tragically and beautifully. Every time I read a witch trial book, the injustice of it all just hits me so hard. It’s easy to forget the origins of the trials amongst the cauldrons and broomsticks - but this shit was real and these women (also men, but mostly women) suffered such horrific treatment. So yeah, an interesting and fresh take on a sixteenth century witch trial! Not my favourite take on a trial, but I’m glad I read it! And I’m definitely going to look more into this trial - I hadn’t heard of it before picking this up!

  4. 5 out of 5

    Helen

    I seem to have read quite a few historical novels about witch trials over the last few years – The Witchfinder’s Sister by Beth Underdown, The Familiars by Stacey Halls and Widdershins by Helen Steadman, to name just three. Jill Dawson’s latest novel, The Bewitching, is another and it tells the story of the Witches of Warboys. I had never read anything about this particular case until now, yet it’s apparently one of the best-known of the 16th century witch trials and is thought to have strongly I seem to have read quite a few historical novels about witch trials over the last few years – The Witchfinder’s Sister by Beth Underdown, The Familiars by Stacey Halls and Widdershins by Helen Steadman, to name just three. Jill Dawson’s latest novel, The Bewitching, is another and it tells the story of the Witches of Warboys. I had never read anything about this particular case until now, yet it’s apparently one of the best-known of the 16th century witch trials and is thought to have strongly influenced the Witchcraft Act of 1604. In her author’s note, Jill Dawson states that many of the details described in the novel appeared in a pamphlet published at the time, although she has shortened the time frame and invented some of the characters and incidents. Most of the novel is narrated by Martha, a servant in the household of the Throckmortons, a wealthy family who live in the village of Warboys in Cambridgeshire. Abandoned at birth by her mother and raised by a nun, Martha has been in the service of the Throckmortons for many years now and has watched her master, Robert Throckmorton, rise in the world to his current position of Squire of Warboys Manor. When, one by one, the Squire’s five young daughters begin to suffer from sudden attacks of shaking and twitching, Martha is as distressed as if they were her own children. No one knows what is causing these fits, but one daughter after another accuses a neighbour, Alice Samuel, of bewitching them. To the reader, it seems obvious from the beginning that Alice is innocent – and Martha also feels uneasy about the girls’ accusations, but knows that as a servant her opinion is unlikely to be wanted or welcomed. Although it’s clear that Alice is not a witch, what is less clear is why five previously healthy children should all suddenly be struck with the same affliction and why they should all choose to blame a woman who has done nothing to harm them. There’s a sense of mystery running throughout the whole novel which I found quite unsettling, because even if nobody has actually been ‘bewitched’, there’s definitely something sinister going on at Warboys Manor. We don’t see very much of Alice’s point of view until later in the book, when she is forced to stand trial at Huntingdon Assizes in 1593 and her daughter, Nessie, and husband, John, also find themselves accused. By this time three ‘scholars of divinity’ have arrived from Cambridge University armed with a handbook on witch-hunting, the Malleus Maleficarum, and further accusations against the Samuels have been made by the powerful Cromwell family. In this atmosphere of superstition, misogyny and fear, poor Alice doesn’t stand a chance. I found The Bewitching very slow at first, but it became more absorbing later on – and there were even one or two twists, which hadn’t occurred to me but probably should have done! The time period is beautifully evoked, with the language carefully chosen to suit the era and sometimes taken straight from the historical accounts (Alice wears a ‘black thrumbed cap’ and the girls don’t just ‘have fits’ – they are always described as being ‘in their fits’). It’s an eerie and unusual novel and although it didn’t always succeed in holding my attention, I enjoyed it overall. I’ll have to look for Jill Dawson’s earlier books now; she’s written so many and I don’t know how I’ve never come across any of them before!

  5. 5 out of 5

    Jo-anne Atkinson

    Martha has served the Throckmorton family for years, looking after their children, and now the family has moved to a large and comfortable house in a fenland village. However the girls start suffering fits and then one of them accuses a neighbour, Alice Samuel, of bewitching them. What chance does Alice have against the godly and highborn family who accuse her? Set in Tudor times, this story predates most of the tales of witchfinding in the 17th century but it does not fall into the trap of being Martha has served the Throckmorton family for years, looking after their children, and now the family has moved to a large and comfortable house in a fenland village. However the girls start suffering fits and then one of them accuses a neighbour, Alice Samuel, of bewitching them. What chance does Alice have against the godly and highborn family who accuse her? Set in Tudor times, this story predates most of the tales of witchfinding in the 17th century but it does not fall into the trap of being a 'tudor' novel. The book is a fictionalised account of a true story in which a local woman was accused of causing death by witchcraft which was a hanging offence. The story is ambiguous in places, particularly with regard to the relationships with the Throckmorton family but is sympathetically written and very sad.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Liberty

    I was very excited to read this because I grew up only a couple of villages over from Warboys. I would have liked a Content Warning to tell me that themes of rape and child sexual abuse had been added to the historical story. It did well to set the scene of everyone is on their toes not to be accused of being Catholic, and once witchcraft is mentioned, everyone is then afraid of being accused of that too. And the level of general, terrible misogyny under which all the women have to live under. But I was very excited to read this because I grew up only a couple of villages over from Warboys. I would have liked a Content Warning to tell me that themes of rape and child sexual abuse had been added to the historical story. It did well to set the scene of everyone is on their toes not to be accused of being Catholic, and once witchcraft is mentioned, everyone is then afraid of being accused of that too. And the level of general, terrible misogyny under which all the women have to live under. But I felt the addition of a rape and its cover-up, and making the accusation of witchcraft part of a decades-old revenge, undid a lot of the more historically accurate misogyny and religious fanaticism that was the more interesting part of the story.

  7. 5 out of 5

    julie

    Well researched historical books based on true events, especially those that delve into the hysteria of witch accusations and trials are my favourite. However, I did not race through this book as I would normally do as I found it very slow to get going and I did not particularly engage with any of the main characters. I enjoyed the latter part if the book much more as the story developed. I gave this book 2.5 stars rounded up to three. Thank you to NetGalley, the publisher and the author for this Well researched historical books based on true events, especially those that delve into the hysteria of witch accusations and trials are my favourite. However, I did not race through this book as I would normally do as I found it very slow to get going and I did not particularly engage with any of the main characters. I enjoyed the latter part if the book much more as the story developed. I gave this book 2.5 stars rounded up to three. Thank you to NetGalley, the publisher and the author for this e advance review copy.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Aria Harlow

    I love historical novels and one of my favourite periods of hostory is the Tudor/Elizabethan era and I am also fascinated by witches and witch trials so this was right up my street. This was such a compelling and engaging read that I couldnt put down. I loved it.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Georgia Zevs

    Well-researched and slow burn, but for me it just didn't pick up. It was well written, but nothing quite hooked me and I ended up feeling like I was dragging through it. There are a number of recent witch-related releases, and for me, this one doesn't live up to the hype or cut through. Well-researched and slow burn, but for me it just didn't pick up. It was well written, but nothing quite hooked me and I ended up feeling like I was dragging through it. There are a number of recent witch-related releases, and for me, this one doesn't live up to the hype or cut through.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Beata

  11. 4 out of 5

    Molly Russell

  12. 5 out of 5

    Beth

  13. 5 out of 5

    Frankie Grech

  14. 5 out of 5

    Catriona Griffin

  15. 5 out of 5

    Lydia Parkin

  16. 4 out of 5

    Rachel

  17. 5 out of 5

    Elena Putyrskaya

  18. 4 out of 5

    Karen Craig

  19. 4 out of 5

    Irini

  20. 5 out of 5

    Amanda (The Book Geek Boutique)

  21. 5 out of 5

    Rach

  22. 4 out of 5

    Dane Wright

  23. 4 out of 5

    Claire McArdle

  24. 4 out of 5

    Linda Kelly

  25. 5 out of 5

    Eneila

  26. 4 out of 5

    Emy

  27. 5 out of 5

    Jill Lamond

  28. 4 out of 5

    Emily McDermott

  29. 4 out of 5

    Emelie Hoog

  30. 5 out of 5

    Graham Carlton Hobbs

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