Book Review: The Witches: Salem, 1692 by Stacy Schiff

Hello, my name is Judith! Welcome to my blog, ReadandReview.

I didn’t initially plan to write a review of this book because it’s rare that I read non-fiction (for fun). However, whilst I was studying at university, I did a module called Reformation and Revolution: Early Modern Literature and Drama 1588-1688 – a catchy title, I know. As part of this module, I studied 16th century witchcraft in England, and this topic undoubtedly interested me. I read a variety of books on witchcraft, and I wrote my module coursework on the representation of witchcraft in Macbeth and The Witch of Edmonton.

So, when I came across The Witches by Stacy Schiff, I was keen to learn more, switching my focus from English witchcraft to its American equivalent.

In The Witches, Schiff details the mysterious and horrifying 1692 Salem Witch Trials, describing the first accusations, the increasing panic amongst the townspeople, and the subsequent witch trials and executions.

I read through this book in small sections, allowing plenty of time to read it because, as I’ve said, I do tend to struggle more with non-fiction. However, I found I enjoyed working my way steadily through it.

I particularly liked how, in Schiff tells the history of the Salem Witch Trials as a descriptive, chronological narrative. Though I use the word ‘narrative’, this is not a work of fiction – obviously, historical facts, statistics, and extracts from transcripts and diaries were still used. What I simply mean to say is that Schiff’s use of vivid descriptions as well as clear, factual information helped me to stay interested. This meant the book felt easy to read and accessible, which was great! I didn’t feel like I needed a history degree before reading it, I didn’t feel as if I was bogged down in boring statistics or wading through a textbook; I felt I was learning more about American history and enjoying it at the same time.

Admittedly, a few bits did go over my head and there were some parts I found more boring than others. For example, I didn’t really care to read the in-depth backgrounds about every judge who trialled witches.

In contrast, I thought the accounts of the witches’ abilities, their trials, and their executions were absolutely fascinating. It was also quite scary to read about what people swore they saw and experienced – devils, demons, creatures, and the like. I’ll admit, after reading some of the eye-witness accounts, I found it hard to be convinced by Schiff’s concluding remarks that the Salem witches must have been hysterical, attention-seeking, or simply scapegoated by their disgruntled neighbours.

Whether I fully agree with Schiff or not is of no real consequence however, as I still enjoyed reading The Witches. If you are interested in learning more about the infamous Salem Witch Trials, or simply learning more about the legends surrounding witchcraft, I would recommend this book.

Star Rating: 4/5 Stars

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Have you read this book? What did you think? 

– Judith


This post was last updated in January 2020

Book Review: Shakespeare and the Psalms Mystery by Jem Bloomfield

Hello, my name is Judith! Welcome to my blog, ReadandReview.

In Shakespeare and the Psalms Mystery, Jem Bloomfield investigates the literary legend that the famous playwright left his mark on the Authorized Version. He delves into the historical, textual and literary evidence, showing that the story isn’t true – but that there are much more engrossing stories to be told about Shakespeare and the Bible.’ (Amazon)

My Photo [Shakespeare and Bible]

At the time of writing, I am an English student at the University of Nottingham. As part of my degree, I studied a module called Shakespeare’s Histories: Critical Approaches. Jem Bloomfield was one of the lecturers responsible for providing some thoroughly enjoyable lectures, talking to us about Shakespeare’s works, as well as the literary, historical and religious contexts.

One lecture that I particularly found interesting was exploring the intertextual links between Shakespeare’s plays such as Richard II and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and various editions of The Bible.

When Jem contacted me his year to ask if I wanted to read his new book, which explores potential links between the King James Bible and Shakespeare, needless to say, I was interested.

Shakespeare and the Psalms Mystery was a good, quick read. As Jem talks* you through a variety of literary, linguistic, and contextual evidence, it soon becomes clear religion and Early Modern Theatre are subjects he is passionate about.

*I say talks; the book captures Jem’s voice wonderfully as he debunks a myth I never even knew existed, recreating the feel of another engaging lecture.

The structure of the book is mostly clear. Jem discusses why the Psalm 46 myth is merely a myth, then moves on to answering questions such as why the legend even exists, and what attracts people to it. However, the only section that tripped me up was the chapter focused on Rudyard Kipling. I didn’t really understand this section, which was a shame, as I followed everything else quite easily.

Nonetheless, if you’d like to learn some interesting things about Shakespeare and the Bible, presented in an engaging and accessible way, I recommend Shakespeare and the Psalms Mystery.

Star Rating: 3/5 Stars

Thank you for reading my blog post! Please click ‘Like’ to support my blog, and ‘Follow’ this blog if you would like to read more book reviews like this.

This book was sent to me by the author in exchange for an honest review.

Have you read this book? What did you think? 

– Judith


This post was last updated in January 2020.

Book Review: The Booze Stole My Son by Aui V

Hello, my name is Judith! Welcome to my blog, ReadandReview.

The Booze Stole My Son is a non-fiction, autobiographical account by Aui V on Wattpad, of a mother’s grief at the loss of her son, JC, who died after a drunk-driving incident.

I found Aui’s story incredibly powerful and you could really feel the emotion in her writing. This was not an easy book to read, which is to be expected, given the topic.

The style of writing switches between extracts from a personal diary, and formally written pieces to inform the reader of Aui’s experiences and religious beliefs, as well as some well-grounded scientific research into alcoholism. Aui is certainly an accurate narrator; she is a qualified nurse, and has seen the destructive impact of alcoholism on other family members and friends.

Yet because of the switches in narrative styles, the book felt a little unstructured at times. However, this did not detract from the message of this book; I think what is more important is the fact that Aui was able to write The Booze Stole My Son as a coping mechanism, to help her come to terms with such a devastating loss.

She was determined to finish her book and bravely speak of her experiences, to reach out, educate and support other people who may be going through similar circumstances.

Although a relatively short read, The Booze Stole My Son is an inspiring and eye-opening tale, and I certainly learnt a lot reading it.

Thank you for reading my blog post! Please click ‘Like’ to support my blog, and ‘Follow’ this blog if you would like to read more book reviews like this.

This book was sent to me by the author in exchange for an honest review.

Have you read this book? What did you think? 

– Judith


This post was last updated in January 2020.