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The Last Witchfinder: A Novel

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The Last Witchfinder: A Novel Cover

 

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

From a writer who has been lauded as "an original — stylistically ingenious, savagely funny, always unpre-dictable" (Philadelphia Inquirer) and "unerring" (San Diego Union-Tribune), who has been compared to Mark Twain, Kurt Vonnegut, and John Updike, a writer whose pen has given us a devastating lampoon of the nuclear-arms race and an audacious answer to the outrageous question "What if God had a daughter?" — from this writer, the critically acclaimed James Morrow, comes a novel of history, adventure, science, sex, satire, absurdity, and philosophy.

Jennet Stearne's father hangs witches for a living in Restoration England. But when this precocious child witnesses the horrifying death of her beloved Aunt Isobel, unjustly executed as a sorceress, she makes it her life's mission to bring down the Parliamentary Witchcraft Act. A self-educated "natural philosopher," Jennet is inspired in her quest by a single sentence in a cryptic letter from Isaac Newton: It so happens that in the Investigations leading first to my Conjectures concerning Light and later to my System of the World, I fell upon a pretty Proof that Wicked Spirits enjoy no essential Existence. Armed with nothing but the power of reason and her memory of Isobel's love, Jennet cannot rest until she has put the last witchfinder out of business.

Abrim with picaresque adventures — escapades that carry Jennet from King William's Britain to the fledgling American Colonies to an uncharted Caribbean island — our heroine's search for justice entangles her variously in the machinations of the Salem Witch Court, the customs of her Algonquin Indian captors, the designs of a West Indies pirate band, and the bedsheets of her brilliant lover, the young Ben Franklin. Finally, in a reckless and courageous ploy, Jennet arranges to go on trial herself for sorcery, the only way she can defeat the witchfinders now and forever. Rich in detail, rollicking in style, and endlessly engaging, The Last Witchfinder is a tour de force of historical fiction.

Review:

"Nine years in the making, Morrow's richly detailed, cerebral tale of rationality versus superstitious bigotry is set in late-17th-century London and colonial New England, a time when everyday actions were judged according to the rigid Parliamentary Witchcraft Act and suspect women were persecuted for alleged acts of sorcery. Inquisitive, 'kinetic' Jennet Stearne, daughter of militant Witchfinder Gen. Walter Stearne, witnesses this pursuit of 'Satanists' up close when her beloved maternal Aunt Isobel Mowbray, a philosopher and scientist, is put on trial and burned at the stake for her progressive ideas. Thirteen-year-old Jennet and her younger brother, Dunstan, immigrate with their now-infamous father to Massachusetts, where Walter (disgraced in England for executing his propertied sister-in-law) puts his 'witchfinding' expertise into savage overdrive at the Salem witch trials. Abducted in a raid, Jennet spends seven years captive to the Algonquin Nimacook, until she's freed by and married to Boston postmaster Tobias Crompton. Years later, after a divorce (!), she becomes smitten (and enlightened) by a young Benjamin Franklin. For a metafictional touch to this intrepid, impeccably researched epic (after Blameless in Abaddon), Newton's Principia Mathematica speaks intermittently, its jaunty historical and critical commentary knitted cleverly into the narrative. This tour-de-force of early America bears a buoyant humor to lighten its macabre load." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)

Review:

"James Morrow's novel about early American witchcraft pulls off so many dazzling feats of literary magic that in a different century he'd have been burned at the stake. Forget 'The Crucible,' Arthur Miller's dreary classic. Forget the repugnant kitsch of modern-day Salem. 'The Last Witchfinder' flies us back to that thrilling period when scientific rationalism was dropped into the great cauldron of... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review)

Review:

"This impeccably researched, highly ambitious novel...is a triumph of historical fiction." Booklist (Starred Review)

Review:

"[Mr. Morrow's] prodigious dedication pays off. Here are storytelling, showmanship and provocative book-club bait (try finding another recent novel that rivals this one for erudite talking points), all rolled into one inventive feat." Janet Maslin, The New York Times

Review:

"When I finished the novel, I sat for a moment wondering when I could visit Jennet's grave in Philadelphia. She's such an extraordinary character captured in the crucible of human progress that I can't imagine how we got here without her. Watch out for James Morrow: He's magic." Ron Charles, The Washington Post Book World

Review:

"[A] treat for history lovers....Morrow injects humor and detail, but to enjoy this novel, you need a real appetite for the history of science. It's a book to delight fans of writers such as John Barth and T. C. Boyle. Or even Jonathan Swift." USA Today

Review:

"Morrow's latest 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." Kirkus Reviews

Review:

"[A]n attractive heroine in an exceptionally engaging and piquantly thoughtful novel. Though similar to John Barth's The Sot-Weed Factor in many respects, Witchfinder is warmer and more human. Strongly recommended." Library Journal

Review:

"For all its philosophical high jinks, literary pyrotechnics, expositions and asides, the wrapper of a story, which up to here has been so lively and amusing, suddenly sounds crinkly and thin....The picaresque is never very good with endings: it's the getting there that counts." Jason Goodwin, The New York Times Book Review

Review:

"For those who like the good, old-fashioned storytelling techniques of the 19th century (heavy on plot, festooned with lots of odd, memorable characters), The Last Witchfinder...may be just the ticket....Morrow is long overdue for a mainstream audience." Denver Post

Review:

"Grim and gorgeous, earthy and erudite as well." Seattle Times

Review:

"Morrow seamlessly weaves fantasy with science and historical fact in one of the best novels of the year." Rocky Mountain News

Review:

"A grand yarn about the clash of reason and superstition, set in a fascinating time." Neal Stephenson, author of The Baroque Cycle

Synopsis:

Jennet Stearne's father hangs witches for a living, but when the young girl witnesses the horrifying death of her beloved Aunt Isobel, she makes it her life's mission to bring down the Parliamentary Witchcraft Act.

About the Author

James Morrow is the author of eight previous novels. He lives in State College, Pennsylvania, where he has spent the past seven years working on this book.

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 1 comment:

Patti, October 1, 2006 (view all comments by Patti)
Steeped in science, history, and fact this work will engage readers who appreciate excellent historical fiction and the study of human motivation. The transition between 17th century events and more present times pulls the reader through the events which fueled the Salem witch trials and associates the realm of science to belief.
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
(5 of 11 readers found this comment helpful)

Product Details

ISBN:
9780060821791
Subtitle:
A Novel
Publisher:
William Morrow
Author:
Morrow, James
Subject:
General
Subject:
History
Subject:
Historical - General
Subject:
Young women
Subject:
General Fiction
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Hardcover
Publication Date:
March 2006
Binding:
Hardback
Language:
English
Pages:
544
Dimensions:
9 x 6 x 1.25369 in 29.68 oz

Related Subjects

Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z
Fiction and Poetry » Science Fiction and Fantasy » A to Z

The Last Witchfinder: A Novel
0 stars - 0 reviews
$ In Stock
Product details 544 pages William Morrow & Company - English 9780060821791 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "Nine years in the making, Morrow's richly detailed, cerebral tale of rationality versus superstitious bigotry is set in late-17th-century London and colonial New England, a time when everyday actions were judged according to the rigid Parliamentary Witchcraft Act and suspect women were persecuted for alleged acts of sorcery. Inquisitive, 'kinetic' Jennet Stearne, daughter of militant Witchfinder Gen. Walter Stearne, witnesses this pursuit of 'Satanists' up close when her beloved maternal Aunt Isobel Mowbray, a philosopher and scientist, is put on trial and burned at the stake for her progressive ideas. Thirteen-year-old Jennet and her younger brother, Dunstan, immigrate with their now-infamous father to Massachusetts, where Walter (disgraced in England for executing his propertied sister-in-law) puts his 'witchfinding' expertise into savage overdrive at the Salem witch trials. Abducted in a raid, Jennet spends seven years captive to the Algonquin Nimacook, until she's freed by and married to Boston postmaster Tobias Crompton. Years later, after a divorce (!), she becomes smitten (and enlightened) by a young Benjamin Franklin. For a metafictional touch to this intrepid, impeccably researched epic (after Blameless in Abaddon), Newton's Principia Mathematica speaks intermittently, its jaunty historical and critical commentary knitted cleverly into the narrative. This tour-de-force of early America bears a buoyant humor to lighten its macabre load." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Review" by , "This impeccably researched, highly ambitious novel...is a triumph of historical fiction."
"Review" by , "[Mr. Morrow's] prodigious dedication pays off. Here are storytelling, showmanship and provocative book-club bait (try finding another recent novel that rivals this one for erudite talking points), all rolled into one inventive feat."
"Review" by , "When I finished the novel, I sat for a moment wondering when I could visit Jennet's grave in Philadelphia. She's such an extraordinary character captured in the crucible of human progress that I can't imagine how we got here without her. Watch out for James Morrow: He's magic."
"Review" by , "[A] treat for history lovers....Morrow injects humor and detail, but to enjoy this novel, you need a real appetite for the history of science. It's a book to delight fans of writers such as John Barth and T. C. Boyle. Or even Jonathan Swift."
"Review" by , "Morrow's latest 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."
"Review" by , "[A]n attractive heroine in an exceptionally engaging and piquantly thoughtful novel. Though similar to John Barth's The Sot-Weed Factor in many respects, Witchfinder is warmer and more human. Strongly recommended."
"Review" by , "For all its philosophical high jinks, literary pyrotechnics, expositions and asides, the wrapper of a story, which up to here has been so lively and amusing, suddenly sounds crinkly and thin....The picaresque is never very good with endings: it's the getting there that counts."
"Review" by , "For those who like the good, old-fashioned storytelling techniques of the 19th century (heavy on plot, festooned with lots of odd, memorable characters), The Last Witchfinder...may be just the ticket....Morrow is long overdue for a mainstream audience."
"Review" by , "Grim and gorgeous, earthy and erudite as well."
"Review" by , "Morrow seamlessly weaves fantasy with science and historical fact in one of the best novels of the year."
"Review" by , "A grand yarn about the clash of reason and superstition, set in a fascinating time."
"Synopsis" by , Jennet Stearne's father hangs witches for a living, but when the young girl witnesses the horrifying death of her beloved Aunt Isobel, she makes it her life's mission to bring down the Parliamentary Witchcraft Act.
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