the witches salem 1962 book coverReviewed by Alisha Churbe

Schiff’s strength is in narrating history and bringing new light to an old story. The Witches: Salem, 1692 is impeccably researched and it’s dense with historical facts. The book begins with six pages for a “Cast of Characters”. With this, you know right away the book will be intense and you should be prepared for the endeavor. It’s not a quick read and the sheer number of characters made it a difficult read.

Schiff has done a great job retelling the story of the Salem Witch Trials in a new way, adding so much to the story that isn’t available in the history. Schiff’s narration is distant, which is fitting to the subject, but it makes the story hard to get through. Schiff’s retelling adds details and sarcasm that wasn’t necessarily in the historical texts.

Within The Witches, Schiff takes on an unsettling topic. In the end, she tells an engaging and engrossing story as well as presenting a conclusive historical text. Deductions are made, connections are determined and emotion is assigned to characters, such as a passage like this one, “Hawthorne harped on it for some time, pummeling Corey for an explanation.” The history doesn’t include the “harping” or the “pummeling,” but Schiff added these descriptors to make the book/retelling read more like fiction.  Another example being, “either she fell speechless or Parris could not make out her answer amid the commotion. He left a blank in the record.” Schiff’s storytelling allows the reader to experience the confusion in Salem. Schiff’s explanations are convincing and credible.

Overall, the book fell a little short for me. I felt there was just too much distance to become involved with any one character’s story and the details. While compelling and interesting, the pace of the story was much too slow for me. I suppose the time and place take the center stage in the book. I think the story is interesting and it’s thick with details that make the history more entertaining. In the end, although interesting, the extra descriptions and the liberties she’s taken with the emotions of the characters didn’t sustain the story enough to make it an enjoyable read.

Rating: ★★★☆☆ 

Part-time fiction writer, Alisha Churbe lives in Portland, Oregon. In the rare instances when you can pry her away from books, Alisha can be found travelling in foreign countries, cooking, or hiking with her husband Michael and dog Euro.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Little, Brown and Company. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.