Hour of the Witch: A Novel
by Chris Bohjalian
Hardcover- $27.99

Click on the ORANGE Amazon Button for Book Description & Pricing Info

Overall rating:


How would you rate this book?

Member ratings

  "Although everything is different, some things remains thesame." by thewanderingjew (see profile) 05/16/21

Hour of the Witch, Chris Bohjalian, author; Grace Experience, Saskia Maarleveld, Danny Campbell, Cassandra Campbell, Arthur Morey, Mark Deakins, Julia Whelan, Kaleo Griffith, Kirby Heyborne, Rebecca Lowman, and Mark Bramhall, Narrators
Chris Bohjalian never writes a cookie cutter book the way so many authors do today. His stories are always unique and spellbinding. This book is no exception. He has taken a book about witchcraft and spun it into a thriller with romance and suspense, as he reveals the tensions of the times for those obsessed with religious zealotry and superstition. The book is well researched. He has left his own political opinions at the door, although, there are moments when I thought I was witnessing the same kind of one-sided bullying and petty jealousy that is so prevalent in today’s society, sadly in all of the social avenues of our lives. Who makes the decisions for us? Who has the power over us? What are their motivations? Are they competent for the job they are performing? This story addresses it all. The story is told from two perspectives. One is called “The Book of the Wife, and the other is The Book of the Witch.”
The novel begins in 1662, in Boston, Massachusets. Mary Deerfield lives in Boston as the second wife of her husband, Thomas. His first wife, Anne Drury, died about eight years earlier. Thomas Deerfield is much older than Mary and is well established. She is closer in age to her step-daughter, Peregrine (also a married woman), than she is to her husband, but the two are not close. She has been married for about five years, and for most of it has suffered the abuse of her husband in silence.
Thomas and Mary live in Boston, not far from her parents who are also well established and respected. Mary is a devout Christian, like most Puritans, and she is very much involved with the church. Historically, this was the time of witch trials in Connecticut. (The Salem witch trials actually began in 1692). Devious people could accuse the innocent of doing something nefarious, something as simple as owning a fork, known as the devil’s tines, and if evidence existed or was manufactured, an arrest might follow. Superstition reigned, and it governed many misguided accusations and decisions.
Thomas turned out to be a brute, but he kept his violent side largely hidden from the public eye, and when caught in the act, he was always able to invent a plausible lie. Men were in charge and women had virtually no power. They had to submit to their husbands and other male figures. When Thomas became more violent when drunk, Mary decided that she had suffered enough abuse; she was determined to return to her family. She attempted to get a divorce. Her servant, Catherine, publicly accused her of odd behavior related to witchcraft and spells. She also believed Mary had eyes for Henry Simmons. Mary had become friends with Henry, a dockworker, who treated her with the utmost respect. Her effort to divorce Thomas failed, and she returned to her life with him, always waiting for him to come home drunk and angry. That is when he would be the cruelest.
The religious zealots and jealous women began to gossip about her. Some, including 18-year-old Catherine, a servant who was sweet on her husband, began to point fingers at her and worked themselves into a frenzy accusing her of being a witch. Mary was barren and was accused of making a pact with the devil and of casting evil spells in order to bear a child. When Mary is poisoned, she wonders who is behind it. When evidence of witchcraft is found, she wonders who planted it. Although she was praised because of her good works in the community and church, she was soon arrested and placed on trial for her life. Who held so strong a grudge against her? She suspects her servant because she admires Thomas. Then she suspects Thomas because he resents her for apparently being barren. She is not able to produce a child.
The author takes you through the abuse, the suspicions, accusations and trials of Mary Deerfield. He captures the atmosphere of that time with people governed a good deal by their ignorance and strict obedience to the message of the church. Heresy was an easy charge to make as was devil worship. Women had few rights and often had to submit to the will of their husbands.
As the story plays out, the reader will wonder with Mary, who is scheming against her? They will witness the duplicity and lies. They will be aghast at the inability of the accused to fully defend herself, and at the refusal of the court to fully investigate the evidence. They will marvel at how easy it is to manipulate evidence, even so long ago, and they might be reminded of, or suspect, today's decisions often made in our courts, but that are based on the court of public opinion. They will condemn her in a knee-jerk response, based on fury, because they believe she has broken the rules. Had she, or is it like the worldview today? The absence of evidence to prove a point, does not mean there is no evidence, but only that there is no desire to see it. Blindness coupled with malevolent intent can corrupt judgment.

  "" by canguilla (see profile) 09/17/21

  "" by [email protected] (see profile) 11/11/21

  "Another Masterpiece Novel by Chris Bohjalian" by ebach (see profile) 01/13/22

HOUR OF THE WITCH is another masterpiece novel by Chris Bohjalian. This one is historical fiction about the Puritans in 1662 Boston. With this subject matter, Bohjalian has also written a thrilling page turner. After you read this book (and maybe while you are reading it), you'll want to research what you thought you knew about the Puritans, including even the words they used, and you won’t want to put it down.

Twenty-four-year-old Mary has an abusive husband, Thomas. When he tries to impale her hand to a table with a fork ("the devil's tines”) she attempts to divorce him, but the magistrates of the community will not allow it. So the abuse continues, always out of the site of witnesses.

Much of this novel is taken up with Mary’s plots to leave Thomas. Her first try is the one I liked best. I never thought I’d see myself rooting for murder.

But it is the courtroom drama that had me riveted. I saw not only how Puritan law worked but also how useless were a woman’s accusations and defense.

So HOUR OF THE WITCH is sometimes difficult to read. Both Thomas’s abuse and Puritan hypocrisy are often frustrating. But Mary is smart, and she defends herself to the magistrates so well that you may find yourself rereading what she says to them.

The end is satisfying, but I found the epilogue to be a bit too expected.

  "" by [email protected] (see profile) 11/15/22

  "" by [email protected] (see profile) 11/16/22

  "" by [email protected] (see profile) 12/16/22

  "" by [email protected] (see profile) 02/28/23

  "" by [email protected] (see profile) 03/01/23

  "" by mamachix (see profile) 01/02/24

Remember me

Now serving over 80,000 book clubs & ready to welcome yours. Join us and get the Top Book Club Picks of 2022 (so far).


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