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THE LAST WITCHFINDER

Morrow’s latest (he’s perhaps best known for The Godhead Trilogy) is commendably ambitious, but this intensely cerebral...

Dominating this wide-ranging historical adventure novel is the campaign by one woman to end witch hunts in England and its North American colonies.

Clever little Jennet Stearne. While her father Walter, self-appointed Witchfinder-General, is away on the warpath in eastern England in 1688, the 11-year-old is absorbing Newtonian science from her scholarly Aunt Isobel. When Walter, acting on a complaint, targets Isobel herself, gutsy Jennet travels to Cambridge to enlist Isaac Newton’s help. Everything goes wrong, first comically, then horribly, for Isobel is burned at the stake, but not before enjoining Jennet to publish a work that will demolish the medieval text (Malleus Maleficarum) that empowered witchfinders and presaged the 1604 Parliamentary Witchcraft Act. Walter has overreached by targeting Isobel, a woman of property, and is exiled to the colonies, along with Jennet and her younger brother Dunstan. Massachusetts is fertile ground for witchfinders; the notorious Salem trials are starting and Dunstan will eventually marry Abigail Williams, that hysterical young accuser. Before Jennet can flee her appalling father and brother, she is abducted by Indians. There follows a pleasantly pastoral time-out before she is rescued by a mailman on horseback. Their consequent marriage fails when their child almost drowns (Jennet was engrossed in Newton). The rollercoaster continues. In Philadelphia, she meets Benjamin Franklin; they become lovers, despite their considerable age difference. They travel to London and meet Newton. Returning home, they are shipwrecked on a Caribbean island. It is here that Nature prompts Jennet’s epiphany, her “demon disproof”; her influential treatise is published by Franklin. Fortune’s wheel turns some more (Jennet engineers her own trial as a witch, big mistake) before witchfinding runs its course and that dreadful statute is repealed.

Morrow’s latest (he’s perhaps best known for The Godhead Trilogy) is commendably ambitious, but this intensely cerebral extravaganza doesn’t really work; Jennet is more a talking head than a fully formed character, and Morrow’s prose, cobwebbed with archaisms, is no help.

Pub Date: March 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-082179-5

Page Count: 576

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2005

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MAGIC HOUR

Wacky plot keeps the pages turning and enduring schmaltzy romantic sequences.

Sisters work together to solve a child-abandonment case.

Ellie and Julia Cates have never been close. Julia is shy and brainy; Ellie gets by on charm and looks. Their differences must be tossed aside when a traumatized young girl wanders in from the forest into their hometown in Washington. The sisters’ professional skills are put to the test. Julia is a world-renowned child psychologist who has lost her edge. She is reeling from a case that went publicly sour. Though she was cleared of all wrongdoing, Julia’s name was tarnished, forcing her to shutter her Beverly Hills practice. Ellie Barton is the local police chief in Rain Valley, who’s never faced a tougher case. This is her chance to prove she is more than just a fading homecoming queen, but a scarcity of clues and a reluctant victim make locating the girl’s parents nearly impossible. Ellie places an SOS call to her sister; she needs an expert to rehabilitate this wild-child who has been living outside of civilization for years. Confronted with her professional demons, Julia once again has the opportunity to display her talents and salvage her reputation. Hannah (The Things We Do for Love, 2004, etc.) is at her best when writing from the girl’s perspective. The feral wolf-child keeps the reader interested long after the other, transparent characters have grown tiresome. Hannah’s torturously over-written romance passages are stale, but there are surprises in store as the sisters set about unearthing Alice’s past and creating a home for her.

Wacky plot keeps the pages turning and enduring schmaltzy romantic sequences.

Pub Date: March 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-345-46752-3

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2005

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THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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