Salem, Massachusetts, Winter 1692: In the parsonage of Reverend Samuel Parris, two young girls are seated by the fire and play at fortune-telling as snow falls softly outside. What starts as a game sends one of the girls into a hysterical trance, and a small town begins its descent into madness. Accusations of witchcraft would destroy lives and old scores would be settled. Over 150 people would be arrested and imprisoned, with even more accused of consorting with the devil.
In Deliverance from Evil, Frances Hill brings her deep historical and political understanding together with her honed skills as a novelist to produce a picture of the Salem witch trials both authentic and deeply moving.
Historian Hill utilizes her extensive research on the Salem Witch Trials to bone-chilling effect in this riveting tale of a town spiraling out of control. Hill's four previous nonfiction books documented the infamous witch hunt and its aftermath, enabling her to lend a sense of immediacy and authenticity to the gripping narrative by stocking it with characters ripped directly out of the pages of history. She knows enough about the real-life perpetrators and victims to build a convincing fictional scenario around them.
The tension ratchets up, and the hysteria mounts after what initially begins as an innocent game becomes something much more sinister. As the Salem community loses control of its collective senses, no one, not even innocent clergyman Reverend George Burroughs, is above suspicion. Astute readers will pick up on alarming parallels to be drawn between the past and the present day.
Hill (Out of Bounds) has written extensively as a historian on the Salem witch trials, and taps expertly into this knowledge for her third novel aiming "to reach the essential truths." Almost her entire cast of characters consists of the actual people who lived, worshipped, and suffered in 17th-century Salem during the witch hunts. In January 1692, the unordained Rev. George Burroughs and his closest friend, Capt. Peter White, are living in the remote settlement of Wells, in Maine, where Burroughs rescues young Mary Cheever after a local Indian massacre. Meanwhile, in Salem, Mass., Burroughs's former parish, two girls on a winter's night whip themselves into a frenzy that sends the whole of Salem into superstition and hysteria resulting in the witch examinations and trials. Burroughs, now married to Mary, is accused as the "leader of witches," arrested, and taken in irons to Salem. Mary and Peter travel to Salem, where their energetic efforts to prove his innocence fail, including Mary's meeting with the priggish, lecherous religious figure Cotton Mather.
Hill's done a fine job with a subject that's inspired countless accounts, adding historical content that makes this treatment stand out from the rest.
Frances Hill, an expert on the Salem witch hunt, has crafted a dramatic novel bringing to life the accusers and the accused. The Rev George Burroughs who is living in Wells Maine with the wife he has rescued from an Indian massacre is arrested and returned in shackles to his former parish of Salem where he stands accused as the Leader of witches.
-Sun Journal (Lewiston, Maine)
This chilling account, unflinching in its telling, is a quality addition to the collection of novels about the injustice done at Salem.
Historian re-imagines the superstition and hysteria surrounding the 17th-century Salem witch trials in novelistic form.
n this beautiful, memorable and exquisitely crafted novel, Frances Hill, world expert on the Salem Witch hunt, brings both persecutors and persecuted to breathing life on the page. History and fiction blend seamlessly: Hill¹s people are our suffering contemporaries whose dilemmas speak powerfully to the modern condition.
-Stevie Davies, Booker and Orange Prize-shortlisted author of The Element of Water
When history makes you weep, it is the novelist¹s job to give meaning to the tears. Frances Hill has done this. Be as brave as she had been and read this book.
-Sarah Dunant, author of Sacred Hearts