Today’s review comes from team member Cathy, she blogs at http://betweenthelinesbookblog.wordpress.com/
Cathy chose to read and review The Black Hours by Alison Williams
Here is Cathy’s review;
Having been born and brought up in Lancashire, the home of the Witches of Pendle, this book was of particular interest. Never thinking much of it as children, apart from trips to Pendle Hill and as something with which to scare each other, it was only as an adult the atrocities, the true horror and suffering were realised.
There has obviously been an enormous amount of research gone into this story and to have the narrative from the Witchfinder’s point of view as well as Alice Pendle’s makes for an even bigger impact. Added to that the fact that Matthew Hopkins is not a fictional character but was indeed a Witchfinder General, although this seems to have been self bestowed title, and believed to be responsible for the deaths of around three hundred women during the span of two years.
Hopkins, believing himself to be doing God’s work and regardless of how he acquires ‘confessions’ from terrified, tortured, persecuted and often elderly, women, is arrogant and condescending of those he considers beneath him. Reading from his point of view was quite unsettling because he is clearly deluded and totally self-absorbed, slyly influencing the superstitious, sometimes spiteful and misguided village people who need someone to blame for all that is lacking in their lives. He arouses only feelings of horror and incredulity at his actions and egotism. It’s a very powerful reminder of the prejudice and tyranny prevalent through the ages.
The mood and feelings of the time are captured perfectly. The small village of Coggeshall, where seventeen year old Alice Pendle lives with her grandmother Maggie, and it’s residents are described in fascinating detail, giving a comprehensive picture of life in the year 1647. A time when having skills in natural healing with herbs and plants could be misconstrued and used as justification for the charge of being in league with the devil.
Alice, in complete contrast to Hopkins, evokes complete sympathy, compassion and warmth. Her story is a living nightmare, chilling in the extreme, given these events occurred with regularity. Women can be, and are, accused of witchcraft for all sorts of preposterous reasons. If the unfortunate person has animals, a scar, a birthmark or forages for plants and herbs, as Alice and her grandmother do. Despite helping their neighbours when in need, they are denounced at the first opportunity. The methods used to ‘prove’ such claims are barbaric and illogical and quite often manipulated.
Despite the terrible ordeal and anguish she suffers, Alice still manages to grow in strength and regain her self-respect.
This is an extremely well written, very thought-provoking and authentic story of people involved in an appalling and menacing situation. I’m very much looking forward to Alison Williams’ next book.