The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane

Tuesday, September 8, 2009


All I really knew about The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe before I started was that it was about the Salem With trials and that the author had researched it in college. Also, I knew she was related to two of of the women who were tried during the trials -- Elizabeth Proctor, who survived, and Elizabeth Howe, who did not. Knowing this and that the main character was someone who was researching the Salem Witch trials in school, 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.

That's what I was afraid of, NOT what I'm saying happened! As it turns out, I was pleasantly surprised! I'll admit I wasn't blown away by the book as I've also heard some were, but I did enjoy this read.

Basically, 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, 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 of 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!

17 comments:

Melissa said...

Great review! I'm looking forward to reading this.

Alayne said...

Thanks for reviewing this. I'd been interested in it because of the cover and the title. Now that I've read your review I've determined that it's not what I thought it was (I supposed reading a synopsis could have told me that as well). Thanks for your help!
Alayne (thecrowdedleaf.wordpress.com)

Lynne said...

Love your blog! And thanks for following me. Because of you I now have 6 (count that...SIX) whole followers. Woot! Woot!

I'm adding your blog to my blog roll too because I love the books you read. That's funny that we are both reading The Help right now :) I'm really enjoying it!

Andrea said...

Great review! I've heard a lot of good things about this and want to read it one day.

Jenny said...

Thanks Lynne! Hehe, the follower count will go up really fast, I'm sure!!

It's funny b/c I wasn't sure if I'd read The Help next or not. It's due at the library on Saturday and I wasn't in the mood to read it. But I read the first page to get a feel for it and it definitely drew me in right away!

Alayne -- that's one of the great things about reviews that you can decide if something would be worth your time or not! You know, though, when I first read the synopsis I didn't think it told me a whole lot. Or it could have been that I was hung up on the character sounding like the author, lol.

Melissa and Andrea -- thanks!

okbolover said...

awesome review! I'm going to leave this on my wishlist then. Thanks for the info, I can't wait to get my hands on this one.

Liz said...

I'd not heard of this, at all, but you've made me want to go looking for it. (By the way, I saw an earlier item about Joy Fielding -- I'm about to start "Still Life," which is her most recent, I believe. Coincidence!)

Interestingly, you're in the time of the Salem Witch trials, and I'm back in 19th century China, during the Taiping Rebellion and the Opium Wars, while I read "My Splendid Concubine" by Lloyd Lofthouse. Inside a great story, you also get insights into Chinese history and life. We see the clash between our culture and Chinese culture, and how important mutual respect is. Both Robert Hart (our hero) and his love Ayaou change and grow stronger due to the conflicts and clashes.

arChinO said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
arChinO said...

Great Review! I haven't heard of this book but -thanks to your review- I'm looking forward to read it.

I enjoy reading your reviews :) I'm adding you to my blog roll, and thanks for the follow on twitter :)-6 followers :D-

http://archino.wordpress.com/

Jenny said...

Karoline -- thanks!

Liz -- how interesting! I've only read a little about chinese history. Mainly a couple books by Lisa See and The Good Earth. It all intrigued me though! Have you read Lisa See? I love her books!

arChinO -- thanks so much!!

Lynne said...

I loved Snowflower and the Secret Fan!! I just read Shanghai Girls and didn't like it quite as much as Snowflower. Haven't read Peony in Love but now I'm scared to because of how much I loved Snowflower. Afraid I'll be disappointed. Whaddya think?

BTW, I'm giving away The Help (which I know you already read) and The Weight of Silence if you'd be interested in that. I know you already follow me but you can still enter!

http://www.lynnesletters.com

Jenny said...

Lynne -- I haven't read Peony yet but I have heard it's not as good as Snow Flower and some people were disappointed. But I'm thinking if you go into it knowing it won't be as good and not expecting as much then it will still be good??

Ooh I'll go enter, thanks! I am going to have to return The Help to the library b/c there is no way I'll finish it by the time it's due. I'm really interested in it but I'm only on page 16 so far, lol! I hope to get it again soon and read the whole thing.

bermudaonion said...

You've made me anxious to read this book!

booktumbling said...

This one keeps coming in my line of sight at the used bookstore. May have to check it out. Great review!

Jenny said...

bermudaonion and booktumbling:

Thanks! I do recommend this one!

justicejenniferreads said...

This book sounds so interesting. My TBR list is growing so long so fast and I wonder where I'll ever find time the to read everything I want to read. But then, why worry about it? I should just get reading. Great review, I'm glad that you enjoyed the book. I love when I have some initial worries about a book but then soon discover that there was really nothing to worry about at all.

Katherine said...

Thanks for this great review! Had heard nothing of this book at all and now you've made me want to run and check it out.

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