Hour of the Witch, Chris Bohjalian: A Review
4.5 stars, rounded up Books with a historical bent can be difficult to pull off because people will compare their own knowledge with the information presented in the prose; and if it doesn't measure up, that can have a negative effect on the reading experience. I picked up Hour of the Witch with that in the back of my mind.
Mary Deerfield endures years of abuse from her husband before she decides she wants to petition for divorce. In 1660s Boston--thirty years before the Salem witch trials--however, this is practically unheard of, an event to be witnessed, and Mary finds herself navigating the courts and her household against accusations of adultery, lying, and witchcraft. First, let me say: I love when I read a book that demonstrates genre writing can be both entertaining and wrought with literary merit at the same time. As someone who spent *many* semesters painstakingly teaching The Crucible (and gritting through the sweating like a stallion cringe-line), I'm always on the lookout for alternatives to use as comparative texts. And even though this is set decades before, Hour of the Witch covered many of the same themes while putting a psychological twist on the story that made for an eerie yet grounded read. importance of reputation, maintaining social norms, religion vs secularism, persecution, morality--through Mary's ordeal with her husband, we're given a pretty realistic look into a woman's life in 1660s Boston. The dialogue and atmosphere were spot on. In terms of the story, I'd call this the middle road between slow burn and action packed. There are some graphic depictions of domestic abuse interspersed with introspection and intrigue. Mary is definitely the focal point, and I appreciated Bohjalian's writing of her character. Much like the burgeoning accusations of the time, everyone is suspect, giving the second half of the book an injection of tension and underlying eerie subplot. I did think the ending felt a bit rushed compared to some of the other drawn-out scenes, but I still enjoyed the resolutions. Overall, Hour of the Witch is a gripping, taut, psychological suspense with classic themes and plenty of twists. For fans of atmospheric suspense in the vein of The VVitch, anyone who loves character-driven suspense, or female-centric protagonists. The Crucible meets J Lo's Enough. Out in April, add it to your TBRs now. Thank you to Doubleday and NetGalley for providing an eARC in exchange for honest review consideration.