Hour of the Witch by Chris Bohjalian

Hour of the Witch book cover

Rating: 3/5

What It’s About:

Boston, 1662. Mary Deerfield is twenty-four years old. Her skin is porcelain, her eyes delft blue, and in England she might have had many suitors. But here in the New World, amid this community of saints, Mary is the second wife of Thomas Deerfield, a man as cruel as he is powerful. When Thomas, prone to drunken rage, drives a three-tined fork into the back of Mary’s hand, she resolves that she must divorce him to save her life. But in a world where every neighbor is watching for signs of the devil, a woman like Mary–a woman who harbors secret desires and finds it difficult to tolerate the brazen hypocrisy of so many men in the colony–soon finds herself the object of suspicion and rumor. When tainted objects are discovered buried in Mary’s garden, when a boy she has treated with herbs and simples dies, and when their servant girl runs screaming in fright from her home, Mary must fight to not only escape her marriage, but also the gallows. A twisting, tightly plotted thriller from one of our greatest storytellers, Hour of the Witch is a timely and terrifying novel of socially sanctioned brutality and the original American witch hunt.


What I liked

One of my favorite parts of Hour of the Witch book was the historical setting of Boston in the late 1600’s. I already knew a tiny amount about Puritan life, but I learned alot more reading this book. It was interesting to read about the daily life of various citizens in the Boston community. Just like in most communities, there is some kind hierarchy of roles and wealth that fall into place. This book explores different aspects of that hierarchy in a unique way. There were several period specific things and terminology that I had to look up, which is something I always enjoy.

Mary Deerfield’s character was interesting in ways I didn’t expect. Having grown up in England as the daughter of a wealthy merchant, Mary’s perspective on life in Boston was intriguing. I liked the parts in the story where she would compare her experiences growing up in England versus her life in Boston. It was through Mary’s interactions with other characters that I learned new things about the family and community roles in this particular setting.

Another one of my favorite parts was reading about the laws and customs relating to marriage, divorce and the treatment of wives during this time. Thomas Deerfield was a sadistic villain and I hated him for the way he abused and manipulated Mary. I was enthralled by the legal process Mary had to go through to file a petition for divorce on the count of cruel treatment. I’ve never been much into legal thrillers or those types of subjects, but Mary’s court hearing before the magistrates was SO interesting to me. The process of questioning, the witnesses, and all that was an absorbing courtroom drama.

What I didn’t like

The dialogue and parts of the story became tedious after awhile. After getting 60% through the book, I seemed to have lost my patience. Some scenes were either drawn out too long or unnecessary. Mary’s character development and the events that followed the divorce hearing took a downturn. Her thoughts and actions were all over the place, but I guess being accused of witchcraft would do that to a person.

I took a chance and listened to this on audio, which could have an influence on my experience. It’s been a long time since I’ve heard an audiobook and maybe a 14 hour book was too much for me to get back into the game. If I was reading the book myself, then I probably would have skimmed the boring parts instead of being forced to listen to every word. I wish I knew if the print book had an afterword or historical research section at the end. I probably would have loved to read that part.

Final Thoughts

Hour of the Witch would most likely appeal to readers who enjoy historical fiction, legal dramas, early American history, or history of witchcraft. I had a great time listening to the majority of the book and would probably have had a better time reading it on my Kindle instead of audio. The historical aspects of the book is what made the experience most memorable and I’m glad that I had the chance to read it.

Have you read this book? I’d love to hear what you thought.



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