This book was lent to me when I was in the middle of The Stand, and when I’d finished that I wanted something far more easy going, so this book got relegated to the bottom of the pile. Having now caught myself up, this was the next one to read.
If you can’t tell from the above paragraph, I wasn’t really dying to read this. I’ve never got on with Jeanette Winterson. People rave about her and I just don’t get her, her writing largely leaves me cold. Now to be fair, in this book, I was impressed with some of her descriptions of people and places. I felt there was worth to them. To the actual plot – I’m not so sure.
It’s based on the true events of the Pendle Witches in Lancashire in 1612. Last year was the 400th anniversary of these events, and so Winterson wrote this novella. Her descriptions of the environment and the events are good, creating a real sense of 17th century rural Lancashire. It was interesting to have the two-fold fears of witchcraft and Catholicism brought together so succinctly, and to learn about an event which is apparently so famous but which I’ve never heard of before now. It was also a quick read, which is always nice when you’ve set yourself a target of 80 within the year!
Ultimately, though, it lacked soul for me. I didn’t care for or about any of the characters, perhaps because it was clear they were going to die pretty quickly. Roger Nowell was about the most interesting character in my opinion. Alice Nutter was admirable in her actions, but not drawn in enough detail for me to be that interested.
The historical event is worth reading into, not least because it shows how easily fear can be whipped up into something more (something the Daily Mail still plays on today), but unless you really like witches, Jeanette Winterson or both, I’d probably skip this.