Tuesday, February 8, 2011
Book Review - The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane
by Katherine Howe
Why I picked it up: It was on one of those recommended books tables at Borders. I was attracted to the cover so I picked it up (I completely judge books by their covers!).
My rating: 8/10
This book is about a Harvard graduate student named Connie who has just been nominated for PhD candidancy in Colonial American History and is advised by her professor to find an original source. But right after, her mother, Grace, contacts her and asks her to straighten out her grandmother's house over in Marblehead, Massachusetts to ready it for sale. The house has been sitting untouched for over twenty years since her grandmother died and to Connie's dismay, it's falling apart. While juggling the nagging of her mother to finish the house and the nagging of her professor to find a topic/source, Connie finds a mysterious key inside an old Bible in the house and inside that key is a slip of paper with the words 'Deliverance Dane' written on it. Connie begins research to find out who Deliverance Dane was and eventually to find the mysterious book attached to her name.
I really enjoyed this book. I read it quite quickly (about a week or so which is quick considering the reading I'm also doing for my classes) and I only picked it up at night. It caused me to stay up until 2-3 in the morning because I didn't want to put it down! At first I wasn't sure I was going to like it but once Connie headed to Marblehead I found myself liking it more and more. The book also had flashbacks to the 1690s and 1700s following Deliverance Dane and a few generations of her family. It was extremely well written - Howe had obviously done her research on colonial America and all the traditions associated with it. There was one thing that bothered me. Whenever I read historical novels (they're becoming an increasing favorite of mine and I hope to write one myself one day - including one associated with the Salem Witch Trials just like this) I always am tempted to look up the person in Wikipedia just to see whether they are being accurately portrayed. I looked up Deliverance Dane and as I read the book, I already knew her fate. But Howe completely changed the ending of Deliverance's life (I won't say how if you want to be surprised). She could have chosen any of the Salem Witch Trials women but she chose Dane and changed her. When I write historical novels, I try to keep the big parts as accurate as possible (you know - birth, death, marriage, children, well known facts, etc). But it only miffed me a little bit and I would read another of her books for sure!
Next book to read - Prospero's Children (already read once years ago - rereading for the sequels).