The Lost Book of Salem by Katherine Howe

I heard a real buzz about this book before it’s release – I saw a few people state it was their favourite book of the year. I wanted to get in on the action, so it arrived through my letter box on it’s release date a few weeks ago.

I can see why people love it, but although I enjoyed reading it, it won’t make it on to my list of favourite reads in 2009.

The Lost Book of Salem is set during the Salem witch trials of the 17th century Massachusetts, and also in 1991, where Connie, a history graduate is studying the trials. Connie finds a parchment inscribed with the name Deliverance Dane in an old cottage that belonged to her grandmother, and begins to investigate the secrets hidden in the cottage and in her family history.

The book is packed with 17th century atmosphere, and there are some really good spooky scenes – I especially loved the discovery of the mandrake! The historical sections were well written and had obviously been meticulously researched.

Unfortunately not everything was amazing. I found the central modern character, Connie, very irritating. She is supposed to be a history graduate (22-years-old?) but she behaved more like a 14-year-old. She just seemed slow. I don’t think there was a single mystery in the book which she managed to solve before me, and some of them were so straight forward I don’t know why they were mentioned. Here is an example of one of the worst offenders:

Connie raised her head, thinking. What was a ‘witch-bottel’? Bottel. A phonetic spelling of ‘bottle’. A witch bottle.

Overall, it was a gripping read, full of interesting facts about the history of witches, but it didn’t quite live up to the hype.


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