Thursday, April 6, 2017
The Witchfinder's Sister by Beth Underdown
The Witchfinder's Sister is a novel based on Matthew Hopkins, who was an actual person. The sister in question, however, is made up. Alice Hopkin's husband dies and having no other place to go, goes back to her brother, Matthew. He's just beginning to get into the groove of witch-hunting and while she doesn't know much at first, she starts to know more. At the heart of the matter is the question: why is Matthew doing this?
The book is written mainly in first-person, interspersed with a few excerpts (not sure if the book is real or not because my knowledge is woefully lacking). I mention this only because there is one passage that is suddenly transitioned into second person and it was rather jarring. I definitely preferred the main first-person point of view that was used.
The story was, as expected, captivating. Alice is a sympathetic character who does as much as she can (although it is very little). The mystery of why Matthew is so set on hunting witches - and how that relates to their past, was well-done and the information was given out in a way that made sure the tension of the book didn't flag.
The characters that stood out the most were Alice, Matthew, and Bridget, Alice's mother-in-law and their family's ex-servant. I found Bridget to be the most inexplicable because several of her actions - like her attitude to Alice after she married her son and her reluctance to tell the truth to Alice even though it would have helped - were hard to fathom. I suppose that makes her a good counterpoint to Matthew, whose motives are also a mystery.
If you're in the mood for a historical novel set in a rather dark time, I think The Witchfinder's Sister will hit the spot. It is definitely not a lighthearted read, but it is captivating and well-written (except for that one second-person passage but this is more of preference than anything).
Disclaimer: I got a free copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for a free and honest review.