I finally finished reading Katherine Howe's The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane yesterday.
Being the ancient, semi-classicist historian snob that I am, I've never been intrigued by the Salem witch trials. (Rome had witches two thousand years before Salem, after all.) But Howe makes them interesting with a fresh look at the so-called witches that were executed. I could definitely sympathize with the protagonist, Connie, a modern graduate student attempting to find fresh fodder for a dissertation. The primary antagonist, her adviser, is less believable and a bit over the top. My middle-class bias also scoffs at the Harvard setting. Ah, well, some are still romanced by such a locale.
Howe is an effective writer and this is an intriguing story. The so-called witches are painted correctly - God-fearing medicine-women. Graduate school is also described correctly. It is difficult, however, to believe Connie's family connections and past. No one finds a dissertation in the decrepit house they inherit. And, if they do, it's not on a topic so romantic as witchcraft. But that's what we, as readers, yearn for, right? Romance - in any form.
I, like Connie, had to laugh at the Puritan names....Deliverance, Mercy, Constance, Prudence, Charity.... I found a few of these in my own family's past while doing research many years ago. Perhaps I had relatives in Salem! Er...no, no likely. That's just to romantic a hypothesis for real life.