This book was the most recent Bathtub book (which is to say, a book I keep by the bathtub so that I can pretend to have the time to be leisurely whilst having a soak before bed). In this tale, a graduate student named Constance Goodwin goes look for a new primary source for her dissertation in Colonial American history at Harvard. After she’s finished her oral examinations and at the beginning of the summer her mother asks her to move up to Marblehead, MA in order to clean out her long-dead Grandmother’s house so that it can be sold so that they can pay the taxes on it. As she begins to clean through all of the things that her Grandmother has left, she finds the name “Deliverance Dane” on a piece of parchment stuffed in a key inside the family bible. She does a little research and realizes that she may have found another woman who was hanged during the Salem Witch trials and that this one might have been a real witch, her will left a “recipe book” to her daughter.
So, this was a fun little book. It is mostly about Connie, researching, living in this little town, meeting an interesting man, and being tormented by her advisor who may or may not have gone completely off the rails. But, there are interludes in the book that go back in time to look at Deliverance Dane and her descendants who are introduced to us in the present through dry documents as Connie tries to hunt down the book. I really enjoyed the idea the discussions about what life must have been like before the scientific revolution and how if you’re not making the distinction between correlation and causation that the world would truly be a mysterious and hazardous place. And, I liked the feminist take on the Salem Witch trials and the idea that all of these women describing their worlds in the idiom of the time and that what looks like hocus-pocus or silly to us was a real way of organizing and understanding the world for them. If I have any complaint, I think it would have to be that Connie, who was really on the ball, didn’t seem to catch on to the connections between the present and the past as I’d have liked her to. But, we all have those moments where we realize something that is completely flipping obvious and that we’ve overlooked or taken for granted.
This was a pretty quick read, and you have to love that if you don’t have a lot of spare time to invest fiction.