Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Heretic's Daughter by Kathleen Kent

This is a spellbinding story of family love, courage and betrayal at the time of the Salem witch trials.Martha Carrier was hanged on August 19th 1692 in Salem, Massachusetts, unyielding in her refusal to admit to being a witch, going to her death rather than joining the ranks of men and women who confessed and were thereby spared execution.Like her mother, young Sarah Carrier is bright and wilful, openly challenging the small, brutal world in which they live. In this startling novel, she narrates the story of her early life in Andover, near Salem. Her father is a farmer, English in origin, quietly stoical but with a secret history. Her mother is a herbalist, tough but loving, and above all a good mother. Often at odds with each other, Sarah and her mother have a close but also cold relationship, yet it is clear that Martha understands her daughter like no other.When Martha is accused of witchcraft, and the whisperings in the community escalate, she makes her daughter promise not to stand up for her if the case is taken to court. As Sarah and her brothers are hauled into the prison themselves, the vicious cruelty of the trials is apparent, as the Carrier family, along with other innocents, are starved and deprived of any decency, battling their way through the hysteria with the sheer willpower their mother has taught them.

So I quite liked this book (and I found it a very easy to read book so it was devoured in mere days!), but it wasn't what I was expecting. It was another of my book club contributions based on another one of BBC 5Live's Book Reviews with Simon Mayo. But I'm pretty sure in their book review they said the book was told from two perspectives, both Martha & Sarah Carrier. My book was all from Sarah Carrier's perspective. Hmph. I think what I like most of all about this book (aside from the fact that the Salem Witch Trials fascinate me), is the fact that it was written by a tenth-generation descendant of Martha Carrier's. Now that is pretty cool. I know an awful lot about my family tree (and I have a dream of retiring and spending days in the public archive researching more of it! Family history fascinates me), but we have nothing like that. Like a family member integrally invovled in a world (in)famous event ... to be fair tho, I'm sure the families of the people driving the witch hunt back then aren't too loud and proud about their descendant status.

Again I've read a book and left wondering how different my life would've been if I were born in a different time. Could I have survived in a world so controlled by religious ferver? Would I have been a non-believer and if I were, would I have the conviction to stand by my (non)beliefs or would I fake it for the sake of survival? I always wonder about these things, and I know I'll never know. But it's kinda freaky to think about ... how much is nature and how much is nuture and the different environments that may have impacted who you've become.

1 comment:

Helen said...

something funny is happening with comments... hope this goes to the right blog :)

I think you ask an interestng question - would we be who we are if we had lived in a different time? I always wonder about the pre-liberation times - would i be a happy housewife sipping tea and playng the piano, or would I still be outspoken and craving education and adventure?

It looks like an interesting book, I'll keep an eye out for it!

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