Book Review: Hour of the Witch by Chris Bohjalian

Hour of the Witch
by
Chris Bohjalian

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Here’s an excellent historical suspense set in 1662 Boston about twenty-four-year-old Mary Deerfield, who is desperate to get away from a violent marriage. When the court magistrates deny a petition for divorce, Mary must return to her husband. Fearful of more cruelty, Mary plots her escape, while mounting evidence of witchcraft threatens to send her to her death.

I enjoyed reading about this time period in early America and how Puritans used God and the Devil to explain things that happened in their lives. Mary is sure she has been framed, but even she secretly wonders if she is possessed by the Devil. The author also highlights the treatment of women during Puritan times. Although her husband is violent, the odds are against Mary when she petitions for a divorce. From the beginning, readers see that Mary is strong-willed and resourceful. She’s willing to accept being ostracized if her divorce is granted, a difficult future, but better than her marriage.

Ultimately, even though her father and one of the magistrates believe her husband has mistreated her, they support the Puritan rules. The reason? Back then, it was acceptable for a husband to physically discipline his wife if it was to teach her to be a good “helpmeet” and to follow the laws of God. Better to send Mary back to her husband to work things out, they reason.

In addition, readers get a closer look at the harsh punishments for other infractions, such as adultery. Anyone suspected or caught in adultery had to face the stocks and a whipping. The author also shows how, although the Puritans relied on herbal remedies and medicines, they feared that those administering them were witches.

I enjoyed this account of Puritan New England, when the fear of God and the Devil ruled. Truly a page-turner, readers will need to untangle characters’ complicated motives and the mystery of the witchcraft evidence. The reward is a better historical understanding of these early settlers’ lives.

This book is a lot different from the other books I’ve read by Chris Bohjalain. It’s much meatier and more historical, although I’ve only read three others, so I’m not an expert. I read Double Bind a long time ago, so it’s not here on my blog, but you can check out these others, which I thought were very good:

The Flight Attendant
The Guest Room

Have you read Hour of the Witch or any other books by Chris Bohjalian? Leave a comment!

Thanks for visiting – come back soon!

23 thoughts on “Book Review: Hour of the Witch by Chris Bohjalian

  1. The cover looks intriguing but your review suggests that there’s too much drama for me to entertain at the moment. Nevertheless, thanks for highlighting this book, Barb!

  2. I have read The Hour of the Witch and had a difficult time getting into it as it was so different from other books of Bohjalian. The other books I have read were a totally different style and as you said, this book is much meatier than most. Once the author’s purpose in sharing this time period with his readers became apparent, I was in the grasp of his pen and/or computer racing to the end.

    Other books I’ve read include the two you mention having read as well as Midwives, The Sandcastle Girls, Close Your Eyes/Hold Hands, The Red Lotus, The Light in the Ruins, and several more. I highly recommend any of these in my list.

  3. Wonderful review! I read this book, and loved it. I was fascinated by the setting, the status of women, and the powerful belief in the Devil and what that meant in terms of day to day living. I’ve read a lot of Chris Bohjalian’s book, and I’d list this as one of my favorites! I think perhaps I prefer his novels that have a historical setting over his more contemporary thrillers (although those are good too). My other top picks of his would be his newest, The Lioness, as well as The Sandcastle Girls and The Light in the Ruins.

    1. Hi Lisa, I’ve heard The Sandcastle Girls is very good. It’s hard to keep up with his books, he keeps busy writing them! Thank you for the visit 🙂

  4. That sounds very interesting! And sadly, even in these times, there are societies that believe a man has the right to abuse his wife (or daughter), and it is legal to do so. Afghanistan is one example…..

    1. Hi Ann, yes the author wrote in the reading guide that he hoped readers would recognize the parallel to our current societies. Thank you for reading!

Comments are closed.