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Abandoned by Booklikes

Government drone by day and book lover and geek girl by night!

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Very Dry Academic Read

The Witches: Salem, 1692 - Stacy Schiff

I have never read this author's previous books, but have to say that I probably won't read any of her other works if they are set up like this. History is a dry subject, but the way this was structured made it even more in my opinion.

Stacy Schiff takes a look at Salem, Massachusetts during it's witch hysteria in 1962. She starts off the book with all of the people/persons affected by the charges of witchcraft. From there, she lost me. Probably because it was just pages and pages of people I didn't know. I really wish that she had instead done a family tree of some sort for an appendix to the book so you could clearly see who was charged/accused/hanged/pressed, etc. Because reading it the way I did left it with no context.

Then Schiff starts off with the girls behind it all: Abigail Williams and Betty Parris. Abigail Williams and Betty Parris were related to Reverend Samuel Parris who ultimately accused people in Salem of witchcraft. Additionally, Reverend Parris's slave Tituba was accused of being a witch and she then in turn accused others as did Tituba's husband Indian John. It was one long winding road of neighbors and family accusing each other left and right. I think ultimately one has to wonder how did no one catch on to this whole thing being just a pack of lies? When I was reading through some of the accusations I just shook my head. I so would have been burned at the stake back then cause I would have been scoffing under my breath.

Schiff goes back and forth between the accusers, accused, and those who sat on the bench who judged. I have to say that I wish that Schiff had managed to either stick with going along with the dates in a linear fashion. Or if not do that, had focused on each person individually. There were so many people I ended up wishing to read more about, but we would jump from one person to another and I found myself getting confused sometimes trying to keep track of everyone.

The one person I was most impressed to read about was Giles Corey who refused to plead. Due to the laws at the time if you refused to plead guilty or not guilt you could not be tried. But instead of letting the person go, they would then threaten to press you to death (have rocks placed on top of you) and Giles Corey still refused to plead and was then pressed to death. Due to him refusing to plead the government at time could not take his land so it was able to pass onto his heirs. He was 81 years old.

The book should have really ended when the special court was dissolved. Instead we follow some people here and there to see what became of them.

The writing was really dry. I found myself getting bored a few times while reading. I just wish that they had broken up the long text with photos and other drawings that they included at the end of the book. It would have helped keep my interest a bit longer.

Also Schiff I think just starts throwing out multiple references to Freud and other people in order to get a handle on why these young girls would have accused someone and why would others then go on and accuse others. She also throws in historical references to other witch trials as well. And I think I saw a Joan of Arc reference too. As I said, it just made the book very dry and I got pretty bored while reading.

The ending has Salem in the modern era still not liking to talk about what happened before (Schiff mentions that Arthur Miller was rebuffed when going to the area to research his play "The Crucible") but has embraced witches as a mascot for the high school and has experienced a huge amount of tourism around Halloween.

The book then shows images/photos and goes into a lot of references. It actually ended around the 70 percent mark I think (via my Kindle) and so it's not as long as you think it is if you are reading it via electronic format. I will say that I wish that Schiff had included more pictures of things in modern Salem such as the witch's mascot, people celebrating Halloween, etc. it would have been a nice juxtaposition of the two time periods.

April 15: $20
April 17: $23. I read "The Wangs Vs the World", electronic pages 368.
April 24: $28. I read "Dream Wedding", electronic pages 512.
April 25: $28. Landed on BL and had to post a vacation photo or tell a story about a vacation.
April 29: $31. Read "Whitethorn Woods", 354 pages Kindle edition, $3.00
April 29: $34. Read "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep", 256 pages;$3.00.
May 4: $37. Read "The Ghost Brigades" Paperback, 346 pages; $3.00
May 8: $42. Read "American Gods" Hardcover, 465 pages; $5.00.
May 8: $45. Read "Moon Called" 298 pages Kindle edition; $3.00.
May 13: $50. Read "Solitude Creek" 434 pages electronic; $5.00.
May 14: $53. Read "No Country for Old Men" 320 pages Kindle edition; $3.00
May 19: $56. Read "The Witches: Salem, 1692" 384 ebook; $3.00.