Synopsis: When Mary sees her grandmother accused of witchcraft and hung for the crime, she is silently hurried to safety by an unknown woman. The woman gives her tools to keep the record of her days – paper and ink. Mary is taken to a boat in Plymouth and from there sails to the New World where she hopes to make a new life among the pilgrims. But old superstitions die hard and soon Mary finds that she, like her grandmother, is the victim of ignorance and stupidity and once more she finds herself having to make important choices to ensure her survival.
Title: Witch Child
Author: Celia Rees
I was about 14 when I read this book for the first time and I had exactly the same reaction to it reading it this time as I did then. A decade may have passed (has it been that long already?!) but this book still manages to give me that ‘great book’ feeling. You know – when you turn over the last page (or click on to it – for all my digital people), sit back and think ‘woah’, while letting out an inexplicably long sigh. You’re so glad you made it to the end with the protagonist, but you have a feeling of loss because there’s nothing left to read.
Witch Child is a gripping, harrowing tale set in the aftermath of Cromwell’s reign. Our protagonist – Mary – witnesses her grandmother going through witch trials, which ultimately leads to her hanging. Thankfully, she is rescued and sent to the New World with a group of Puritan pilgrims. Mary attempts to hide her past and avoids drawing suspicion on herself but, as always, secrets have a way of getting out.
The best sign of a fiction novel is that you can’t help but believe it’s not true. This was exactly how I felt with Witch Child; I had turned into a historian who stumbled across an amazing colonial diary and couldn’t put it down.
Rees weaves a beautifully written tale – full of wonderful details and an interesting and consistent narrative voice. Although written as a YA, this book definitely has the story and sophistication to appeal to adult readers.