Sunday, April 25, 2021

Hour of the Witch (Chris Bohjalian)

What happens when a Puritan woman in New England wants to leave her abusive husband? Chris Bohjalian's historical fiction novel Hour of the Witch deftly answers this unique question in the heart-pounding first part but then fizzles a bit after that.

In 1662, Mary Deerfield is living with her husband, Thomas, and their servant girl, Catherine. Thomas is terribly violent toward Mary and rather than tolerating it, she decides to take matters into her own hands and file for divorce. Back then, one needed to get government approval to divorce. Not only that, but Mary soon finds herself the target of suspicion of witchcraft.

This book is divided into a few parts. The part leading up to Mary's divorce hearing is absolutely compelling. After that, Hour of the Witch loses a little luster and becomes predictable. But I admire Bohjalian for taking the topic of divorce on at a time period when it was almost unheard of.