Enter the world of young Mary Newbury, a world where simply being different can cost a person her life. Hidden until now in the pages of her diary, Mary’s startling story begins in 1659, the year her beloved grandmother is hanged in the public square as a witch. Mary narrowly escapes a similar fate, only to face intolerance and new danger among the Puritans in the New World. How long can she hide her true identity? Will she ever find a place where her healing powers will not be feared?
In 1659, fourteen-year-old Mary Newbury keeps a journal of her voyage from England to the New World and her experiences living as a witch in a community of Puritans near Salem, Massachusetts.
During the witch hunts of the mid-1600s, many young Englishwomen died on the gallows, innocent victims of false or hysterical accusations of witchcraft. But what of those women who actually claimed the name "witch" as their own? In the pages of her secret journal, Mary Nuttall reveals what it is like to live in a climate of mistrust and piety in which differences are dangerous and rumors can kill, where she must hide her heritage as a healer and pagan. With a sure hand, she describes her beloved grandmother's trial and hanging as a witch, her own rescue by a mysterious noblewoman, and her eventual passage to the New World and the forest settlement of Beulah. There Mary falls under a curtain of suspicion when she willingly chooses to explore the dark woods shunned by the fearful colonists and makes friends with some of the spiritual native people. When several girls in the community begin to shriek and swoon, and the same minister who damned Mary's grandmother comes to search for signs of witchcraft, Mary is subjected to close and deadly scrutiny.
Breaking with most historical fiction about witchcraft (such as Elizabeth Speare's The Witch of Blackbird Pond), British author Celia Rees raises the stakes and the tension by placing a real witch at the center of her story. Witch Child is an engrossing, suspenseful novel that will cast a spell over both readers of historical fiction and fans of witchcraft series from Circle of Three to Sweep. - Jennifer Hubert
Age 10 and over. She was locked in the keep for more than a week. First they walked her up and down, up and down between them, for a day and a night until she could no longer hobble, her feet all bloody and swollen. She would not confess. So they set about to prove she was a witch...
Mary's grandmother is executed for witchcraft, and Mary is forced to leave her home to avoid the same fate. At first she flees to the English countryside, but when the atmosphere of superstition and suspicion becomes all consuming she leaves on a boat for America in the hope that she can start over and forget her past. But during the journey, she realises that the past is not so easy to escape.
Witch Child is a complex, absorbing novel, told in the form of pages from a journal found loosely sewn into an old quilt many years later. From the moment the story begins, the tension is tangible, and the reader is drawn into a world of mistrust and uncertainty that shakes to the core. All this is cleverly conveyed through the eyes of Mary, whose first sense of wide-eyed wonder gradually develops a mature understanding of her situation, drawing the reader in to a dark and dangerous world where the tiniest slip could mean death.
Celia Rees, always a fine writer, tackles her subject with serious and sensitive aplomb, bringing together a sense of history with an extraordinarily powerful and thrilling story that is unforgettable. - Susan Harrison