OK, remember The House of Velvet and Glass, by the same author? Of course you do, your memory is not THAT full of holes. I discussed it here. In that historical novel, the story revolved around the Titanic. And spiritualism. And opium. And visions produced by opium.
The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane is a wonderful historical novel about witches, and Salem and New England and how the church can be pretty darn nasty when it comes to not thinking and behaving in the exact manner it prescribes.
Again, we have a story set in two periods of time, the 1700s in New England, and modern day in the Salem, Mass. area.
A young doctoral student, Connie, is working under the advisorship of a well known historian, and is told by him that the best thing is to find some original source material never seen before, because the whole witch thing has been pretty much picked over, doctoral thesis-wise, many years ago. Her mother is a bit, shall we say, eccentric, and now lives in Arizona giving aura readings. Her grandmother died many many years ago, leaving her small house in a secluded section outside of Salem, and her mother asks her to spend the summer cleaning it out and putting it on the market to sell.
Connie finds a key in an old bible, and in it, a scrap of paper with the words Deliverance Dane, and thus starts her search for what would turn out to be a book not only of recipes, but of spells. The story pops back and forth between events that Deliverance Dane is involved in, (she is a healer), the church board, poisonings, accusations, her daughter, and her daughter’s daughter. The advisor is becoming quite interested in this possible original source, and is pressuring Connie to find the old manuscript. The advisor is beginning to behave in a strange and erratic manner, and she finds him stalking her on several occasions.
We follow Connie in an interesting quest through the handling of old manuscripts and how they end up where they do. We are not stalking Connie, however. We are hoping for some modern day witchcraft. And as in Howe’s other book, we are not disappointed with the bit of paranormal that creeps into the tale, because really, don’t you always wish you could cast a spell or two when the need arises? But no burnings. We don’t want any burnings. Or hangings. Geez, sure was dangerous to be a healer in those olden days.
Great great book. I really loved it, and as was Howe’s other book, it, too, was meticulously researched, the history of the time brought to life. Just excellent.