- Fizzy Thoughts: The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane

The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane

Wednesday, June 17, 2009


The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane
Katherine Howe
June 2009
384 pages

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:
book-a-rama
Caribousmom
Devourer of Books
fyrefly
S. Krishna

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?

14 comment(s):

rhapsodyinbooks said...

You are the first person I've seen make the comparison to The Heretic's Daughter. How interesting! Great review.

claire said...

I haven't read any one of those. For someone who would look to read just one, which do you think is the best of the three?

heidenkind said...

I haven't read a recent book based on witch trials yet, but I think they appeal to writers and readers because of the political climate we're (hopefully) coming out of, where you were branded unAmerican or radical if you make any negative statements about the administration or its policies. Kind of like how Arthur Miller wrote The Crucible in response to McCarthyism. That's just my theory, of course.

Joanne said...

I'm a moron because I hadn't even considered the possibility of provoking comparisons to the other Salem-themed books that have been coming out lately.

That wouldn't have been enough to turn me off ... but then seeing how the spelling/accents are used - that bugs me.

Thanks for answering my question, I'll probably still give this a shot sometime. But I'm glad that my expectations aren't so high now :)

Michele at Reader's Respite said...

Oh gosh, I'm in the minority I guess. I loved this one. But to be fair, I haven't read the other two books you reference, so maybe I'll revise my opinion when I do get around to reading those! Nicely done!

Veens said...

I have not read any books on witch Trials... but I really have read great reviews about Herectic's Daughter. so if i have to try anything it will be that one :)

Veens said...

Hi, You really need to have a search button! I was searching for a review... I am sure I read here! but can't find it :)

if you could please have a search button installed :)

softdrink said...

rhapsody - If the book had stayed entirely in the present I think I would have enjoyed it more.

claire - The Heretic's Daughter if you're a fan of historical fiction. If not, then go w/ The Lace Reader.

heidenkind - that's actually a damn good theory. I like it.

softdrink said...

Jo - Yeah, you should still read it...I'd like someone else to back me up. :-D But it doesn't strike me as a book you'd be raving about (although I could be wrong).

Michele - thanks. But most people are liking it...I don't think you're in the minority at all.

Veens - good choice. :-D And the search button is now on my to-do list!

Belle said...

Great review. I think this would appeal to me more if it stayed in the present, too. I keep slip sliding off the fence every which way on this one, still don't have it on my list yet.

Fyrefly said...

I actually liked this one more than The Heretic's Daughter (although I liked that one too) - I think because I found Connie more personable than Sarah. The jail scene did strike me as really familiar, though.

I've had The Lace Reader on my list since last summer, but still haven't gotten around to picking it up...

bermudaonion said...

I'm sorry to see you didn't love this book, because I really want to.

Dawn - She is Too Fond of Books said...

This is in my TBR; I'm looking forward to it because it's (somewhat) local.

I read (and really liked) THE LACE READER, but haven't read THE HERETIC'S DAUGHTER. I'll let you know if TPBoDD is too much Salem for me.

Tara said...

Ahh, it's always nice to have someone to agree with you. Of the books you mentioned, I think The Heretic's Daughter is the best of the 3, The Lace Reader, was good, but not great in my opinion and was over-hyped.

In a real sense, people who have read good literature have lived more than people who cannot or will not read. It is not true that we have only one life to live; if we can read, we can live as many more lives and as many kinds of lives as we wish. ~S.I. Hayakawa

The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.
~St. Augustine

Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.
~Mark Twain

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