Hour of the Witch

By Chris Bohjalian,

Book cover of Hour of the Witch

Book description

NEW YORK TIMES BEST SELLER • From the acclaimed author of The Flight Attendant: “Historical fiction at its best…. The book is a thriller in structure, and a real page-turner, the ending both unexpected and satisfying” (Diana Gabaldon, bestselling author of the Outlander series, The Washington Post).

A young Puritan…

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Why read it?

5 authors picked Hour of the Witch as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

I loved this book for being historical fiction at its finest, and I loved the main character, Mary Deerfield, for being a woman who did not fit within her own time.

It’s 1660s Boston, and Mary is married to an abusive man. Determined not to die at his hand, she must fight against everything in her society to free herself from her marriage.

I loved how this book so insightfully explored the dynamics of an abusive relationship while also bringing to vivid life a distant time and place. 

Nothing’s more subversive than illicit desire, so Mary appeals to me as a quiet rebel par excellence, particularly when she decides to fight back against her abusive husband.

A sterling example of a literary thriller, unafraid to dwell in emotional moments and use them to turn the screws, this novel reminds me of Hitchcock films for its villain’s relentlessness and the way in which ordinary objects become charged with tension.

I love the psychological complexity of a protagonist who feels shamed, thinks maybe she deserves it, yet somehow senses that there’s another, freer way to live. Mary’s struggle is one…

Sometimes historical fiction can be less than riveting…this novel is the opposite of that. Completely riveting. I was spellbound by the entire read, everything about it—the plot, the setting, the time period, the historical events but especially the characterization of the protagonist, Mary Deerfield. The framework behind it all is impeccable research that seamlessly dovetails into exquisite descriptions and language. Just go read it…you’ll see. (Side note: a special treat was character names such as Peregine, Rebeckah, Zebulon, and Valentine sprinkled in with more traditional ones.)

Set in 1662 Boston, with period dialogue and a look into the country when discrimination against women was above all; normal. Like many times during this time in history, declaring your neighbor a witch wasn’t anything unusual. Mary has to fight against, not only a witch-hunt, but a husband who does nothing right toward her. A story of plots and twists, and one for those who love historical fiction.

Published in 2021 and set in 1662, Hour of the Witch provides a refreshingly defamiliarized and unusually intimate perspective on early colonial Boston, a city better known for the momentous historical events that unfolded there more than a century later. Notable for its well-researched and plausible account of seventeenth-century divorce proceedings, this immersive historical novel tells a tense and harrowing story of spousal abuse, domestic power imbalances, and accusations of witchcraft as a method for revenge and reputational assassination. The story is true to the past but also feels quite contemporary, offering a fascinating window into the history of early…

From Tim's list on Early Colonial New England.

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