Blog Tour: 'The Witchfinder's Sister' by Beth Underdown (2017)
The number of women my brother Matthew killed, so far as I can reckon it, is one hundred and six...
1645. When Alice Hopkins' husband dies in a tragic accident, she has no choice but to return to the small Essex town of Manningtree, where her brother Matthew still lives.
But home is no longer a place of safety. Matthew has changed, and there are rumours spreading through the town: whispers of witches, and of a great book, in which her brother is gathering women's names.
To what lengths will her brother's obsession drive him?
And what choice will Alice make, when she finds herself at the very heart of his plan?
Today I’m really excited to be part of the blog tour for a very promising historical fiction debut, namely Beth Underdown’s ‘The Witchfinder’s Sister’! I was one of the lucky readers who received a review copy before the book’s official release date, which happens to be today, and was also asked to be part of the blog tour. I love diving into a historical fiction read every now and again and especially this novel’s topic, witch hunts/trials, is a topic I’ve always been interested in. I still remember how much research I tried to do when I gave a presentation on witch trials when I was at primary school and it’s something that has always stayed with me. Needless to say, I was keen to give this read a try! If you’d like to learn more about the novel, make sure to also visit some of the other blogs on the tour; you can find all links on the blog tour poster!
Set in 1645, ‘The Witchfinder’s Sister’ tells the story of Alice Hopkins, who has just lost her husband and finds herself pregnant, so without any option besides travelling back to her hometown of Manningtree, where her half-brother Matthew still lives. Matthew was always unlike others, but Alice is surprised when she discovers how secretive and vengeful he has become. She can’t help but pick up the rumours about Matthew’s name being connected to the hunt for witches, and Alice quickly finds out she, even as his half-sister, isn’t safe from him and could be just as much in danger as other women around her.
Beth Underdown has treated us to a dark and convincing debut novel in the form of ‘The Witchfinder’s Sister’, and a story that has definitely made an impression on me. The novel is set in seventeenth century England and is actually based on real historical events. A ‘M. Hopkins’ was connected to many witch crimes in that time, and Beth Underdown took it upon herself to turn these facts into a fictional character, Matthew Hopkins, and created an entire story around it, which is narrated by Matthew’s half-sister Alice. I’ve personally always been fascinated by the witch hunts in the UK and the USA, so I really enjoyed the topic of this novel and was keen to read it. The first few chapters dragged me into the story, and I have to say it kept me curious until the end.
While at the core of this novel there is definitely an intriguing storyline and a fascinating collection of characters, I can’t help but feel it could have been even better than it was. At times I thought the story was quite slow-paced, especially in the second half of the book, and I wished there had been perhaps been another secondary storyline, or more information on the witch hunting itself. However, this being said, I do feel this is a convincing debut novel by Beth Underdown and I’m pretty sure we can expect great things from her in the future. All in all, ‘The Witchfinder’s Sister’ is a gripping, dark, and fascinating read about the historic witch trials; a historical fiction novel I thoroughly enjoyed and definitely got me wanting more…!