Before I started, all I really knew about The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe was that it was about the Salem With trials and that the author had researched it in college. I also knew that she was somehow related to two of the women who were tried during the trials — Elizabeth Proctor, who survived, and Elizabeth Howe, who did not. Knowing this, I was concerned that the book would feel too autobiographical and forced — like maybe it wouldn’t be so much a story as it was the author regurgitating information.
As it turns out, I was pleasantly surprised! I’ll admit that I wasn’t blown away by the book as I’ve heard some were, but I did enjoy this read.
The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane follows Connie Goodwin as she researches some interesting discoveries for her doctoral dissertation. Her take on the Salem Witch trials is interesting because she looks at it differently than most historians do — what if they really were witches? We then follow her quest to learn more about the mysterious Deliverance Dane (not often mentioned in the history books) and to find the “physick book” that used to belong to Ms. Dane. At first the search is merely a part of her research for a “primary source” but it turns into something much more necessary!
I liked that this book took on an interesting take on a well-known and well-documented historical event. The author was knowledgeable without providing a lecture on the topic. The plot moved along fairly well, and at times I could see this being made into a movie. Despite being the author’s first novel, it was very well-written. There were only a few times that I thought an analogy was somewhat juvenile, but, all in all, the writing was surprisingly mature for a debut author.
There was also a magical element that some readers will likely enjoy. I’m not too big on that kind of thing so it was a little weird for me, but as long as I allowed myself to believe in it as fiction, I was okay. And though most of the story is told in present day (well, 1991, which took me forever to figure out why it was set then, but I did figure it out eventually) there are also scenes interspersed throughout the 1600’s involving the accused witches. The balance of the two narratives was well-done. I enjoyed the flashbacks but appreciated that there were less of them than the main part of the story which was Connie’s research.
The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane was well-done an I would recommend this to others — especially to those who enjoy learning more about historical events. Though the author’s relation to real life Salem “witches” initially gave me some apprehension about this book, in the end, it made it all the more interesting. The author provided a post-script at the end that explained what was fact and what was fiction and a little more about the historical aspect in general. It was only about 6 pages long but it was a nice finishing touch!
Jenny is a social worker in her late twenties who lives with her husband and Jack Russell Terrier in the central Florida area. In her “free” time she loves reading books of all genres. She also reviews books on her book blog TakeMeAway.