THE LOST BOOK OF SALEM by Katherine Howe

For so, so, so long I’ve been wanting to review this book. It’s been out for awhile, it was released in Australia in June 2009, but it’s one of the best books I’ve ever read (and a debut, no less!) and deserves to be up first.

As both a disclaimer and a little personal tidbit, I have long had a fascination with witchcraft and the supernatural in general. I blame that overactive imagination. Truthfully though, it has always been a subject of interest for me. I was unhappily educated in religious schools that had an overzealous method of teaching Catholicism, so anything out of the ordinary was a welcome distraction. Naturally, this book appealed to me.

The Lost Book of Salem is essentially told with a dual storyline, moving effortlessly between the witch trials of the 1690s and modern day Salem. Connie Goodwin, a Harvard graduate, is preparing for her doctoral dissertation. She is portrayed as a strong, ambitious and intelligent young woman, and readers are immediately drawn to her. Within the opening chapters, her strained relationship with her mother is revealed, and when Grace Goodwin calls asking a favour of her daughter, Connie finds herself inexplicably drawn to her deceased grandmother’s abandoned house to prepare it for sale.

One day while cleaning, she discovers a key hidden within a seventeenth-century Bible, with no clue as to what the key is for, other than an old piece of parchment with a name written upon it: Deliverance Dane. The discovery of the key sets the scene for the book; a challenging journey of discovery, not only about who this woman was, but also for Connie to discover herself and to understand her heritage. With any good quest comes a love interest, and also many trials to overcome. The closer Connie comes to solving the mystery of Deliverance Dane and her physick book, the more she is drawn into Salem’s dark past. Haunted by visions of the witch trials, Connie must face the truth about her family and their connection to one of the most fascinating and disturbing periods in American history.

This novel captivated me from start to finish, and even now, some two and a half years later, I can recall the fervour with which I devoured this book. With a host of strong, powerful and colourful characters, a rich, well-researched and compelling story is provided in this debut and I am eagerly awaiting Howe’s next novel, which I am told will be released in 2012.

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