I was really hoping to enjoy reading The Witches: Salem, 1692 by Stacy Schiff. After finishing a couple non-fiction books, I was craving a chilling narrative. The Salem Witch Trials are fascinating and, in certain aspects, chilling. Thus, I figured that even as this book is also a historical account of that period, I was hopeful that it would fulfill my desire in a book.
Unfortunately, I was disappointed. The Witches: Salem, 1692 is a great historical account of those events in which 14 women, 5 men, and 2 dogs were executed for witchcraft. However, I think that is really all it is. I believe the book tried to spin a narrative on some accounts, but the amount of information it packed into its pages made the novel read more like a history textbook than a novel. Additionally, the back of the book is full of citations, and the body text has many asterisks and symbols indicating there are little notes to add. While the citations are necessary given how the author gathered her information, the overall feel of the book combined with those citations really made it read like a textbook.
Now, this does not mean that you will not enjoy the book. If you are looking for a comprehensive account of the trials, this would definitely be a good resources to begin with. However, if you are looking for a more “fictionalized” account, this book is not for you. I was hoping to read a book about the events that read like a fiction story that was even more chilling because many of the events were based in reality. If such a book exists, I would love to read it.
Despite my disappointment regarding the way the novel read, the writing itself was well done. She portrays the events the way they unfolded with all the “confusion” that individuals must have felt at that time. The book itself is quite convincing, particularly with the main “villain” and the manner in which he reacts to the events and hysteria.
Clearly Stacy Schiff conducted an extensive amount of research. This is evident in both the main content of the book as well as the citations at the back. The only suggestions I would really make to this book is alter the presentation of this material. The events themselves have the potential to be utterly bone-chilling, and while they do appear a little chilling in this novel, they fall short of their full potential. You can see the finish line in the race, but it is still a bit far away.
I realize that many enjoyed this novel, and saw narrative in its presentation, but I felt disconnected throughout the entire time I spent reading The Witches: Salem, 1692.
Title: The Witches: Salem, 1692
Author: Stacy Schiff
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company