Wednesday, June 17, 2009
The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane
Harvard graduate student Connie Goodwin needs to spend her summer doing research for her doctoral dissertation. But when her mother asks her to handle the sale of Connie's grandmother's abandoned home near Salem, she can't refuse. As she is drawn deeper into the mysteries of the family house, Connie discovers an ancient key secreted within a seventeenth-century Bible. The key contains a yellowing fragment of parchment with a name written upon it: Deliverance Dane. This discovery launches Connie on a quest to find out who this woman was, and to unearth a rare colonial artifact of singular power: a physick book, its pages a secret repository for lost knowledge of herbs and other, stranger things. As the pieces of Deliverance's harrowing story begin to fall into place, Connie is haunted by visions of the long-ago witch trials, and begins to fear that she is more tied to Salem's dark past then she could have ever imagined.
For this week’s Weekly Geeks I invited readers to ask questions about any of the books I haven’t yet reviewed. For this book, Joanne asked:
“I am chomping at the bit to read this, please tell me this is amazing and that I will absolutely love it?”
I’m sorry, Jo, but I just can’t. I want to, but I can’t. And it's not that it’s a bad story. It’s entertaining, it’s got hints of woo-woo. I enjoyed it, but I can't gush about it. And I think it's because I’ve read both The Heretic’s Daughter and The Lace Reader and I couldn’t stop making comparisons. For example:
- Both Katherine Howe and Kathleen Kent (author of The Heretic’s Daughter) are descendents of people accused of being witches during the Salem Witch Trials. And then they both wrote books about the Salem Witch Trials.
- Deliverance Dane has a jail scene sort of reminiscent of the jail scene in The Heretic’s Daughter.
- Deliverance Dane and The Lace Reader feature modern day Salem and characters/shops that capitalize on the Salem Witch Trials.
So while the stories are still different (The Heretic’s Daughter is entirely set in the past and is pretty bleak, The Lace Reader is more character-driven), there were still enough occasional similarities that had me thinking “I’ve read this.” If you haven’t read The Heretic’s Daughter or The Lace Reader, I’m thinking you’ll enjoy Deliverance Dane.
Also, as Chris at book-a-rama recently pointed out, Connie is a bit oblivious at times. Especially for a PhD candidate. You might find yourself wanting to shake some sense into her. And I had a hard time with the accents…I thought it was overdone. If the author was trying to illustrate how phoenitic spelling can hinder research, I think the point was made early on with Professor Chilton’s pronunciation of Mercy (mehcy) and Marcy (mehcy). The continued use of the heavy accents for the scenes in the past made the book almost unreadable at times.
If you’d like a second or third opinion, check out these other reviews:
Devourer of Books
What do you think of the recent flurry of books based on witch trials? Are they starting to blur together for you, or do you still look forward to more books on the subject?