The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane, Katherine Howe

I told Colleen at Foreign Circus Library that I love books about research, and she ever so kindly sent it to me in the post!  Lucky me, I read it over the weekend.  Poor Connie has just got through with her qualifying exams – sounds like a nightmare, that lot, I don’t think I was sufficiently sympathetic to my dear friend tim when she was having quals (sorry tim!) – and her scatty New Age mother demands she go fix up her (Connie’s) late grandmother’s old house and get it sold.  While living at the house, Connie finds a little key inside a Bible, and a name, Deliverance Dane; and this leads to all kinds of mad research into the Salem witch trials.

Although I enjoyed The Physick Book a lot, there were some smallish things that I thought could have been improved.  I was not in love with the Boston accent approximations – I know these things are difficult to do, so I give her mostly a break on that.  I thought the book telegraphed punches a bit, with Connie failing to pick up clues that even I caught, even though she was supposed to be doing a dissertation on colonial America and I, um, took American history when I was in high school.

Throughout the book we flash back to Deliverance Dane and her daughter and her daughter’s daughter and this was really excellent – I wanted more of it!  The sections from the past felt much more immediate and real than the bits with Connie doing her researching and having her rather unbelievable fling with Sam.  Deliverance and her daughter Mercy, in particular, made me get a bit sniffly since, of course, it being the Salem Witch trials, Deliverance gets hanged. Oh well.

Final verdict: This book sounded like one of Barbara Michaels’ books, and it really was a lot like that.  Only less polished.  Barbara Michaels but less polished.  I’d love to see Katherine Howe write an entire book set Back in the Day.  I bet that would be really good, although I don’t tend to love books set in colonial America.  I would read one if Katherine Howe wrote it.  I believe in you, Katherine Howe!

Other thoughts:

Tara at Books and Cooks
Wendy at Caribousmom
Fyrefly’s Book Blog
book-a-rama
S. Krishna’s Books
Devourer of Books
Medieval Bookworm
Booking Mama
3 Evil Cousins
Joyfully Retired
TV and Book Addict
Bookfoolery and Babble
In Search of Giants
Shelf Love
I Smell Books
LitBites
Literary Fangirl
We Be Reading
The Book Splot
My Two Blessings
The Burton Review
Reading Rocks
Books for Breakfast, Drinks for Dinner

  • I’m planning to read this book next week (it’s called The Lost Book of Salam in the UK) Yours is the first so-so review I’ve seen for it, everyone else seems to be raving about it. I wonder what I’ll think?

  • It’s good! But it lacks polish. The writing wasn’t quite there, particularly in the sections set in the modern day. Connie and Sam and her advisor were around a lot, but they weren’t fully realized characters. I’m looking forward to seeing what you think!

  • Oh, I’ve just written about this! I was not a big fan, I think it could have been better executed and the author just needs more practice.

  • I agree. I think she could write a much better book than this, but we’ll see. I’ll link to your (and other!) review soon – I’ve just switched back to my old computer and I’m still trying to come to terms with how slow it is. Poor old thing has well under 2G of RAM, so the internet is just amazingly slow.

  • Thanks for the linkage! I’ve got some Barbara Michaels on my TBR pile, and I didn’t know much about it… so if it’s similar to this book (which I quite enjoyed), that’s reassuring.

    • Oo, what ones? I like most of her books a lot (comfort reads!), but there are a few that are really terrible.

      • Patriot Dreams… I was looking for more books with parallel modern/historical storylines at the 4 Rs Challenge, and this one got recommended to me.

        Hopefully it’s not one of the terrible ones! 🙂

        • Oh yes! Patriot Dreams! I am very fond of Patriot Dreams! I actually have Patriot Dreams at home because I feel like rereading it. I hope you like it.

  • I’ve just finished it, and I agree with you! It just wasn’t quite there. I’ll get a full review together for tomorrow. I am amazed at how many people have read this book already – the hype is amazing!

    I’m not sure how Connie managed to get a history degree – she is so slow!

    • I know! She didn’t even pay attention to the horseshoe on the house’s door! And that business with receipt/recipe, like it was a major discovery, when she’d just done her quals on colonial America. I dunno. I hope for better things in future.

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