Tuesday, 29 March 2011

The Heretic's Daughter by Kathleen Kent

The Heretics Daughter is told from the point of view of Sarah Carrier, a young girl who's mother was accused and tried for witchcraft during the Salem witch trials. Sarah was arrested along with her brothers and imprisoned in an attempt to force her mother to confess to her crimes.

I have to admit that I wasn't expecting much from this novel, I thought it would just read like a standard best-seller and I only brought it because the subject matter interested me but I ended up really enjoying it. The book is well researched and the beliefs of the Puritan community are presented in a way that makes it believable to a modern reader, I would recommend this to any fan of historical fiction.

The first half of the book follows Sarah and her family as they struggle as best they can on their farm in Massachusetts. The life portrayed is a hard one as the threats of small pox and Native American attack are a real day to day fear and when mixed with the isolation and religious belief of these communities it is not hard to see how quickly suspicion and paranoia can spread. Although the witch trials do not start until halfway through the book, the first half covers the characters relationships, how the community works and creates a good atmosphere of foreboding and dread. making a good base for when the trials finally start.

The prison scenes were particularly well done as other characters who were also arrested are introduced here and are either eventually released or condemned to hang. There is lot of hardship throughout with virtually no humour but the characters are very well drawn and I got a strong sense of the time period.

A good story and one I enjoyed reading.

Verdict 4/5

Posted by Jess


  1. I've seen this title mentioned quite a few times with little knowledge of what it was actually about. Your review definitely makes me want to get it if I find it out. I am definitely a fan of historical fiction making it even more of a want.

  2. How have I not heard about this book? I love books that are about the paranoia of the witchcraft trials rather than actually being about paranormal events. It's definitely gone on my wishlist :)

  3. So glad to read that you enjoyed this one! You are absolutely spot on, and I think you described it perfectly when you wrote "Although the witch trials do not start until halfway through the book, the first half covers the characters relationships, how the community works and creates a good atmosphere of foreboding and dread. making a good base for when the trials finally start." Now you have to read The Wolves of Andover - I'm looking forward to your thoughts on that one. Kathleen Kent is now an author that I'll be waiting with eager anticipation for her next books!

  4. Great review! I think I read this one a long time ago but for some reason I am not remembering it right now (that's why I started a blog - haha). I will have to revisit this one some time.

  5. Beth - its certianly one for historical fiction fans as I think the author really nailed those details.

    Sam - the paranoia is slowly built up over the first half of the book but it really gives an understanding I think to how it actually happened. The community are living on a knife edge so any slight from your neighbour or family is remembered.

    Coffee and a Book Chick - thanks for letting me know that The Wolves of Andover exists as I had no idea Kent had written another book until I saw your review.

    mynovelreviews - thank goodness for blogs eh? I swear its because I write the reviews that I now remember more about the books I read.

  6. What made this one interesting to me is that the characters are based on women from Kent's family. Look for the trailer on it & she talks about that there.

  7. I've seen this book everywhere but I always thought it looked boring. I'm interested in several things you mention in your review, Massachusetts, with trials, Puritanism. I feel like maybe there is a better book about these things?

  8. I have added this one to my list. I have a bias against books called 'the something's daughter' - it screams 'marketing ploy' to me and turns me off. However, I'm going to have to rethink that as so many interesting books keep being titled like this!

  9. I wasn't expecting much from this one either, but I really liked it. It was a great piece of historical fiction.

  10. Elisabeth - I did find that interesting but I tried not to let it influence my reading in any way. It certainly adds a twist though.

    Ash - I think the definative work on this subject is Arthur Millers play. Otherwise I am sure there are countless non-fiction books that go into alot more detail.

    mummazappa - I think the title is one reason I didnt expect too much from it, it just screams 'best-seller' which isnt always a good thing. I also dislike the somethings wife.

    Avid Reader - it was, all those details that make an historical fiction novel so good were all in there. Glad you also enjoyed it!

  11. This sounds really good.. and I am interested in the Salem Witch hunts. Adding this to my TBR list. Thanks for the review!