Short Book Review: The Heretic’s Daughter by Kathleen Kent
SBR: The Heretic’s Daughter is a well-written story which culminates in the time of Salem witch trials. The story is partly historical and partly recreated from the family lore by the author who is a descendant of the story’s protagonists. The latter has introduced a certain romance in how the characters are portrayed. But it serves well to heighten the sense of horror that an episode like the witch trials is bound to induce. You can feel the exasperation, fear, and helplessness of the people who were going about their lives, working hard on their farms and indulging in regular, petty scuffles with neighbors, and then one fine day find themselves in manacles, being dragged into courthouses and prisons with nothing to do or say that would prove their innocence, often their family following the same fate close behind.
The book doesn’t dwell on the trials as much as on the effect it had on people. As in the case of communal riots, you have neighbors and friends turning on each other, even the family members and relatives. The most merciful torture methods to induce confessions are also enough to choke you with mere imagination. The most reasonable of the theologists advice against using spectral evidence (where accusers claim that they had been harassed, pinched or prodded by a specter resembling the accused) not because it could be unreliable, but because there was a theological debate over whether or not the Devil needs your permission to use the specter.
It was used anyway!
To read or not to read: It may feel slow or boring in the beginning, but I would suggest reading it.