Book Review: The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane

Two book reviews in one week - not bad, right? The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane came to me from my librarian-in-training cousin, who is working to get her Masters in Library Science and already practicing her book recommendations. And clearly she's doing well, because this book rocked.

The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane smacks of anything but first novel, which it is for novelist Katherine Howe. Descended from Elizabeth Howe, who survived the Salem witch trials, and Elizabeth Proctor, who did not, Howe turns her expert pen to the subject of witches and magic in both colonial America and modern day. Focusing on the story of Connie, a PhD candidate at Harvard, Howe explores Connie's studies and her search for the perfect primary source, overlaying Connie's modern-day story with the background of Massachusetts witch-hunts in the 17th century.

The extensive research that must have gone into Howe's novel shines through, and readers cannot fail to appreciate this. From the Salem witch trials themselves to the history and culture of New England to colonial lifestyle, Howe is thorough and complete, weaving historical accuracy in with a well-fabricated and well-conceived storyline.

My only complaint would be a small inconsistency in the story, in which a mysterious illness is attributed to two separate and completely distinct causes - but I can't say more without giving away too much.

Bottom line: While not the be-all, end-all of best books I've read in 2010, Physick Book of Deliverance Dane succeeds because doesn't try to be more than it is: a well-paced, accurate historical novel. In the search for a book of solid distraction but with enough weight not to feel like a waste of precious reading hours, Howe will satisfy your every need. Thorough research coupled with a plot of intrigue, magic and deception makes a chunky, relevant page-turner, and if you're anything like me, you'll finish the novel wanting to find about more about the Salem witch trials and the culture that surrounded them.

Any recommendations for further reading?


  1. I can't wait to read this book! I actually saw the author on a panel in NY and she is amazingly smart.

  2. I don't doubt it - the amount of historical detail she included here was astounding!

  3. Hi! Just stopping by from the blog hop. This was a book club book for me and I just could not get into it at all. Yet it seems to get such good reviews. Oh well. I'm glad you enjoyed it!

  4. I've seen this but didn't stop to actually explore the content. This is really fascinating and makes me want a copy now. There just isn't enough time to read all these books!

  5. Beth - I know your pain! This certainly wasn't the greatest book of all time, but the info about the Salem witch trials was worth it.


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