I had the pleasure of reading The Witchfinder’s Sister by Beth Underdown some time ago. As a fan of historical fiction, I was excited to dive into this novel set in 1640s England during the height of the witch trials. The story follows Alice Hopkins, the sister of Matthew Hopkins who was known as the infamous Witchfinder General. Through Alice’s perspective, we get an intimate look at not only the witch hunts but what it was like to have a complex relationship with her controversial brother.
|Title||The Witchfinder’s Sister|
|Publication Date||March 2, 2017|
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An Intriguing Premise
The premise immediately drew me in. Seeing the witch trials from the sister of Matthew Hopkins provided such a unique viewpoint. Alice herself struggles to reconcile her love for her brother with the growing awareness that his actions are morally corrupt. I found it fascinating to see him through her eyes and the way she grapples with loyalty to family versus what is right. The complex dynamic between the siblings added great dimension to the story.
Vivid Portrait of the Time Period
One of the standout aspects of the book is how vividly it transports you back to 17th century England. The daily life details, cultural beliefs, and language all serve to fully immerse you in that time and place. As Alice interacts with midwives, cunning folk, Puritans, and more, you get a broad perspective of how different groups viewed witchcraft. I felt like I was right there in the English countryside as the witch panic spread.
Through Alice’s Eyes
Alice made for an engaging protagonist. Right away I was invested in her inner and outer journey. She’s intelligent, curious, and compassionate which made her eminently likable. It was powerful to see the witch trials through the eyes of an everyday woman. Her firsthand account of the hysteria as it consumed communities was harrowing. The internal conflict between her conscience and love for Matthew added an emotional weight. In the end, she shows tremendous growth which kept me invested in her story from beginning to end.
Thoughtful Examination of the Witch Trials
On a deeper level, the book provided thoughtful examination of the witch trials and their larger impact. The novel doesn’t shy away from the atrocities but it also sheds light on how even good people could get caught up in the frenzy. It captures the paranoia and groupthink that led villagers to turn on their neighbors. But there are also tender moments between Alice and the accused that humanize them. As a reader you simultaneously feel the injustice of the trials and understand how mob mentality fueled it.
In addition to strong characters and historical insight, the plot itself keeps you hooked. There are illicit romances, daring rescues, betrayals, and more. I was racing to the final pages to see what would become of the characters I had grown so attached to. The storyline effectively weaves the fictional characters with real historical figures like Matthew Hopkins and John Stearne. If you enjoy an exciting, character-driven historical novel, the engrossing plot will draw you in.
Overall an Impactful Read
The Witchfinder’s Sister pulled me into a meticulously researched slice of history through the eyes of a relatable narrator. The characters still stick with me even after the last page. It brings an often sensationalized period of history to life with nuance and thoughtfulness. Whether you’re a fan of witchcraft stories or historical fiction in general, it’s a highly impactful read I definitely recommend. The story will haunt you and illuminate a fascinating chapter of the past.