Hour of the Witch – by Chris Bohjalian – independent book review – Historical Fiction (U.S.)

Thank goodness attitudes about gender have changed over time! Because once you read this new novel from Chris Bohjalian, you’ll understand how whimsically dangerous it was to be a woman in 1600s Boston. Awarded four stars on Goodreads.

Mary Deerfield is the daughter of a prosperous merchant, full of curiosity and intelligence and aware of her own self-worth. Her parents arrange a financially secure marriage to an older, also prosperous miller, who is a widower with a grown daughter.

So, what options are open to that same young woman in the Puritan world of the 1660s when she realizes she is married to a pillar of society who is also a vicious abuser? A husband who believes his cruelty is simply the necessary manifestation of a husband’s proper role as disciplinarian. What redress is possible? Is divorce available? Will the courts provide justice? Can Mary get help perhaps from the church? Or will her parents or friends intervene?

Chris Bohjalian explores all these questions and more in this diffcult-to-read story of a society where women wield little power and men are quick to use religion, the law, and superstition to blame them for all that is misunderstood about the world. As a woman, I was extremely uncomfortable with Mary’s powerlessness and how easily individuals could make accusations against her —— with little or no proof— and still have those accusations believed.

Chris Bohjalian

HOUR OF THE WITCH is NOT historical fiction that paints a flattering portrait of our country’s Puritan settlers. But it IS a very compelling study of historical gender roles and the constancy of our darker human nature.

More about the author, Chris Bohjalian.

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