Hour of the Witch
Author: Chris Bohjalian
Main Narrator: Grace Experience
Published: May 4, 2021
Reviewed By: Jessica
Dates Read: July 8-15, 2021
Jessica’s Rating: 5 stars
Boston, 1662. Mary Deerfield is twenty-four-years-old. Her skin is porcelain, her eyes delft blue, and in England she might have had many suitors. But here in The New World, amid this community of saints, Mary is the second wife of Thomas Deerfield, a man as cruel as he is powerful. When Thomas, prone to drunken rage, drives a three-tined fork into the back of Mary’s hand, she resolves that she must divorce him to save her life. But in a world where every neighbor is watching for signs of the devil, a woman like Mary – a woman who harbors secret desires and finds it difficult to tolerate the brazen hypocrisy of so many men in the colony – soon finds herself the object of suspicion and rumor. When tainted objects are discovered buried in Mary’s garden, when a boy she has treated with herbs and simples dies, and when their servant girl runs screaming in fright from her home, Mary must fight not only to escape her marriage, but also the gallows.
A twisting, tightly-plotted thriller from one of our greatest storytellers, ‘HOUR OF THE WITCH’ is a timely and terrifying novel of socially sanctioned brutality and the original American witch hunt.
Unlike Bohjalian’s 2018 novel and more recent tv series The Flight Attendant (my review of the novel is here) which is a thriller, Hour of the Witch is Historical Fiction. It takes place in Boston in 1662, and our main character is Mary Deerfield. She is the second wife to Thomas Deerfield who is twice her age, with an adult daughter close to Mary’s age. In a time where women were subservient to men, Mary decides to petition for divorce from Thomas after an incident of domestic abuse towards her. This novel circles around the impeding proceedings for her divorce petition, but also causes other events to occur where Mary will have to fight for her life.
It is apparent that Bohjalian meticulously researched while writing this novel. As the listener of the audiobook version, I really felt like I was in that time period where it was very dangerous to be a woman suspected of witchcraft. It was not a good time to be a woman with the thoughts that women were ‘weak’, needed to be taken care of, and expected to marry then have children or face the thought of ‘being barren’. Bohjalian even wrote the novel in the language of the time, so the characters say thee, thou, make haste, and more throughout. I am thankful I listened to the audiobook because of this, I think I might have had issues if I had read the novel. The audiobook had a very well-done cast narration with Grace Experience being Mary Deerfield’s voice.
We do get answers to all of the presented questions by the end of the novel in a satisfying conclusion. Mary was very much ahead of her time with her bravery facing all that she did.
I was not sure what to expect with this novel, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. I will also be reading more of Bohjalian’s novels.