Hour of the Witch Review

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Hey Book Friends
So much to divulge; let’s jump right into it.

I finally finished reading Chris Bohjalian’s “Hour of the Witch,” and boy, is it a good one!


“Hour of the Witch” follows the story of Mary Deerfield in 1662 Boston. While her two older brothers remained in England, Mary and her parents moved to the colony in hopes of prosperity. It was decided she would marry Thomas Deerfield, a man nearly twice her age and a daughter three years younger than Mary. As good of a suitor as he appeared, Mr. Deerfield was a brutal abuser and alcoholic. Mary kept her ordeal quiet until the violence escalated to a stabbing (he stabbed Mary in her hand with a fork).

It was the final straw that pushed Mrs. Deerfield to request a divorce, but in 1600s New England, that wasn’t a thing. Despite the assault, she wasn’t granted her request. She wasn’t even believed. After returning to the marital home to endure more brutality, Mary is accused of witchcraft, a label easy to place and harder to defend.

This book was an absolute page-turner from start to finish. It crescendoed beautifully and was very well paced. The background information — meaning historical elements — was ably researched (IMO).

This book stood out for a few reasons, but this overarching world of controlling women is the leading reason for me. We’ve made a few strides since, but have we? (Insert comment about abortion rights here). Mary was bound to an abuser who stabbed her in her hand, and the courts were more concerned about her being a witch and conspiring with the Devil. Despite living in a world where women are men’s property, Mary was outspoken, particularly during the courtroom proceedings. She did not let the accusations of others quietly sully her character, even if there wasn’t much she could do to defend herself.

Each chapter builds the anticipation significantly, and Bohjalian’s use of word visualization was incredible. You can picture the cold, damp, gray New England village — I found it to be another character of the story — and it’s cold in more ways than one.

Readers fall into the story, hoping Mary is given a reprieve from all that she has endured, but it gets harder to believe it will happen. It does, and it ends sublimely.

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