It’s completely unfair to compare Chris Bohjalian’s protagonist to an ELO song, but Mary Deerfield deserves all the props.
Mary is a badass and sparks should fly from her fingertips.
In Bohjalian’s latest, “Hour of the Witch,” readers are transported back to 1600s Boston and the home of Mary Deerfield, a young woman married to a much older man, a local miller named Thomas. It’s safe to say Thomas is not a good man — often drunk and abusive, Catherine bears the brunt of abject cruelty and physical violence until she can take no more, and requests a divorce.
Set against the backdrop of a region consumed by its fear of Satan and convinced there are witches among them, Mary has to attempt to convince a panel of men that her stories are true and those claiming she’s been possessed by the Devil are lying.
Someone is setting Mary up — is it her indentured servant Catherine? Jealous neighbors? Her daughter-in-law Peregrine? Or perhaps even Thomas? Who is leaving the mark of the Devil and can she just figure it out so she can be free to get her sexy on with Henry Simmons?
(The more I think about this, the more I think this needs to be Netflixed.)
Regular readers of my blog know I really enjoy Bohjalian’s books — and to be fair, some more than others. I wasn’t sure several pages in if I was going to be out-“Prithee”ed and lose interest. I never was a fan of any of that wretched Puritan BS we had to read in high school and wasn’t looking forward to almost 400 pages of it. But I was so taken in by Mary and her determination to free herself from a bad marriage that I couldn’t put it down and the “thou”s and “thine”s faded into the background of a captivating narrative and a compelling mystery.
Domestic violence and zealotry are no laughing matter today, which makes even a fictional account from the 1600s even more terrifying. Mary Deerfield may not be real, but you know there were women back then abused, abused often, and left with no recourse when town elders presumed it was a man’s right to torture his wife in the name of God. Just, Ugh.
Go get em, Mary.
Great for fans of historical fiction and mystery lovers, “Hour of the Witch” will keep your nose in your book pretty much from the first page ’til the last. Highly recommend it!