BKMT READING GUIDES



 
Romantic,
Adventurous,
Fun

44 reviews

A Discovery of Witches: A Novel (All Souls Trilogy)
by Deborah Harkness

Published: 2011-02-08
Kindle Edition : 594 pages
145 members reading this now
98 clubs reading this now
99 members have read this book
Recommended to book clubs by 38 of 44 members

"A wonderfully imaginative grown-up fantasy with all the magic of Harry Potter and Twilight."
-People

In a sparkling debut, A Discovery of Witches became the "it" book of early 2011, bringing Deborah Harkness into the spotlight and galvanizing fans around the world. In this tale of ...

No other editions available.
Add to Club Selections
Add to Possible Club Selections
Add to My Personal Queue
Jump to

Introduction

"A wonderfully imaginative grown-up fantasy with all the magic of Harry Potter and Twilight."
-People

In a sparkling debut, A Discovery of Witches became the "it" book of early 2011, bringing Deborah Harkness into the spotlight and galvanizing fans around the world. In this tale of passion and obsession, Diana Bishop, a young scholar and the descendant of witches, discovers a long-lost and enchanted alchemical manuscript deep in Oxford's Bodleian Library. Its reappearance summons a fantastical underworld, which she navigates with her leading man, vampire geneticist Matthew Clairmont. Harkness has created a universe to rival those of Anne Rice, Diana Gabaldon, and Elizabeth Kostova, and she adds a scholar's depth to this riveting story of magic and suspense. And the story continues in Book Two, Shadow of Night.

Editorial Review

Amazon Best Books of the Month, February 2011: It all begins with a lost manuscript, a reluctant witch, and 1,500-year-old vampire. Dr. Diana Bishop has a really good reason for refusing to do magic: she is a direct descendant of the first woman executed in the Salem Witch Trials, and her parents cautioned her be discreet about her talents before they were murdered, presumably for having "too much power." So it is purely by accident that Diana unlocks an enchanted long-lost manuscript (a book that all manner of supernatural creatures believe to hold the story of all origins and the secret of immortality) at the Bodleian Library at Oxford, and finds herself in a race to prevent an interspecies war. A sparkling debut written by a historian and self-proclaimed oenophile, A Discovery of Witches is heady mix of history and magic, mythology, and love (cue the aforementioned vampire!), making for a luxurious, intoxicating, one-sitting read. --Daphne Durham

Excerpt

No Excerpt Currently Available

Discussion Questions

1. Diana’s mother says that fear is “the strongest force on earth” (p. 6). What does she mean? Do you agree?

2. Early in the novel, Harkness describes the typical personalities and physical traits of daemons, witches, and vampires. If you could be any one of these beings, which would you choose and why?

3. Who is the Congregation? Is it a force for good or a force for evil?

4. What happened to Diana’s parents? What were they trying to hide?

5. Diana studies alchemy, which she defines as a type of “science with magic” (p. 91) used to explore and understand unexplained phenomena. Do you use astrology, fortune-telling, or ESP to provide a deeper understanding of events in your own life?

6. Why is Diana and Matthew’s love forbidden? Have you ever loved someone whom your family or friends thought was inappropriate? How did their reaction influence your feelings?

7. Most of the book is told from Diana’s perspective, yet a few chapters are written in the third person. Why? What feature or purpose unites those chapters?

8. Diana and Matthew travel back to the sixteenth century. If you had the power to timewalk, as she does, what period in history would you visit?

9. In chapter 31, Diana remembers the bedtime story her mother told her as a child. In what ways does that story foreshadow the events of Diana’s life?

10. Harkness presents the use of witchcraft not only as an otherworldly ability, but also as a part of everyday life; for example, Diana uses a spell to fix her washing machine. Which example of the novel’s blending of the magical with the mundane did you find most entertaining or creative? If you could use magic in your daily life, what would you use it for?

11. Look at the last page of the book. What is the significance of the blood and mercury? What is the reason behind the sense of relief felt in the house? What does the last sentence of the book mean?

Suggested by Members

In the book there has been a decision made to keep the species seperate. There is a natural loathing between them. How does that also relate to what is going on now!
by momandme (see profile) 08/09/12

Why do people like me who do not care for vampire/witch subjects love this book?????
by jeanijeani (see profile) 07/27/12

Notes From the Author to the Bookclub

A Note from author Deborah Harkness:

Why does a history professor decide to write a novel about witches? It's a good question!

Writing a novel is a mysterious process and many of my life experiences went into A Discovery of Witches. One of my favorite books as a child was Elizabeth George Speare’s The Witch of Blackbird Pond. The history of alchemy and magic caught my interest as an undergraduate, and I'm still fascinated by these subjects today. And, once upon a time, I discovered a lost alchemical manuscript—although it was not (so far as I know) enchanted.

A Discovery of Witches tells the tale of a reluctant witch named Diana Bishop and her discovery of a long-lost alchemical manuscript at Oxford’s Bodleian Library. There, Diana meets Matthew Clairmont: a geneticist who happens to be a very old, secretive vampire. Witches and vampires are traditional enemies, but Diana and Matthew grow closer as they try to puzzle out the manuscript's significance. Their search for answers takes Diana and Matthew from Oxford, to his ancestral home in France, to her family’s farm in upstate New York. But they are not the only creatures who want to solve the mystery of manuscript, and their fellow daemons, vampires, and witches frown upon their unorthodox relationship. Are these just old prejudices, or is it something more?

Our culture’s renewed obsession with witches, vampires, and other things that go bump in the night has been fascinating to me as a historian. I’ve gone from needing to explain what alchemy is to having my students all nod wisely whenever Nicholas Flamel is mentioned. Parents have confessed that they've been staying up late to read their kids’ copy of the latest Harry Potter. Our reading habits reveal that even grownups need a little magic—with the limitless possibility, unpredictability, and even chaos that inevitably comes with it. My goal with A Discovery of Witches was to write a fairy tale that was mesmerizing but spoke to adult issues and concerns. I tried to create characters who were strange—yet strangely familiar. Many of us will recognize ourselves in Diana, who has so much power but is afraid to use it. Others will empathize with Matthew’s inability to let go of his 1500-year past—even though we have less of a past to worry about! And still more will wonder, while riding the train or sitting in a meeting, if that strange creature opposite just might be a daemon or a vampire.

If it's magic you need this winter, I hope that you find some in A Discovery of Witches.

Book Club Recommendations

Give members time to finish this book...
by DeanaPar (see profile) 09/03/14
It\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\'s nearly 600 pages long. It drags in places. Make sure your members are committed to the fantasy fiction genre or they\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\'ll be mad about having to devote so much time to finish this book.

Member Reviews

Overall rating:
 
 
  "A Discovery of Witches"by CABarney56 (see profile) 10/20/15

This book is very long and moves a little slow. It is reminiscent of the "Twilight" series. One member of our group described it as "Twilight meets Harry Potter."' Overall we enjoyed the book although... (read more)

 
  "Fun to read, but lengthly and needs editing..."by DeanaPar (see profile) 09/03/14

I'm liking this book (almost finished). The story premise and characters are great. But it's nearly 600 pages long (not good for some book club members who can't devote their lives to reading, or who read... (read more)

 
by flickingerkaren (see profile) 06/18/14

 
by fratt (see profile) 06/18/14

 
by tgunder88 (see profile) 04/28/14

 
  "Really good"by maikman (see profile) 01/17/14

 
  "An Addictive Read"by TSLang (see profile) 10/15/13

It was a bit of a slow starter but once you push through and it starts rolling, you can't put it down! It brought up a lot of interesting thoughts on history & the occult.

 
  "Beautifully put together"by Kellynlange (see profile) 05/05/13

I loved everything about this book, beginning to end had be captivated! Adventurous, romantic, well arranged, and best of all excellent cliff hanger! Looking forward for the second book!

Rate this book
MEMBER LOGIN
Remember me
BECOME A MEMBER it's free

Join the leading website for book clubs with over 35,000 clubs and 20,000 reading guides.

SEARCH OUR READING GUIDES Search
Search


FEATURED EVENTS
PAST AUTHOR CHATS
JOIN OUR MAILING LIST

Get free weekly updates on top club picks, book giveaways, author events and more
Please wait...