I found The Vanishing Witch by Karen Maitland a little slow at the beginning, although it’s full of interesting and well drawn characters, set in Lincoln during the reign of Richard II. It’s the time of the Peasants Revolt, a time of murder and mayhem and when suspicions of witchcraft were high as people started to die unnatural deaths, but it just didn’t have the magic spark that I’d enjoyed in her other books that I’ve read – The Company of Liars and The Owl Killers. It’s a long book of nearly 500 pages and it’s not just the beginning that’s slow, but it picks up towards the end.
The story revolves around Robert of Bassingham, a rich wool merchant, and his family – wife Edith and sons, Jan and Adam. All is fine until Robert meets Catlin, a wealthy widow, who comes to him for advice. Catlin is, of course, not as kind and good as Robert thinks she is and Robert’s family soon suffers because of his involvement with her. There are many other characters, including Gunter and his family. Gunter is a river boatman, struggling to make a living, burdened by heavy taxes he can’t pay. His life goes from bad to worse.
I liked the elements of the supernatural and suspicions of witchcraft in this book and the historical setting. There are several narrators, including a ghost and each chapter is headed by weather-lore, anti-witchcraft charms and spells taken from medieval ecclesiastical writings, recorded British folklore and from medieval spell books known as grimoires. For example this is the heading for Chapter 2:
If you fear that you are in the presence of a witch, clench both your hands into fists with the thumbs tucked under your fingers. Then she cannot enchant your mind.
Now that advice could be useful!
3 thoughts on “The Vanishing Witch by Karen Maitland”
I love the advice. I’m a terrible one for listening to these things. ie when my boys watch the vampire stuff, they heard somewhere along the way if you have a welcome sign up the vampire’s can come in. Ever since I don’t have a welcome sign up, I’ve gone with God Bless this Mess. So now I’ll be sitting around with my hands in fists.
P.S. I’ve found a solution for my heavy book, I’m going to download it to my e reader, if I can remember how to do this… I keep forgetting I have one.
I’m sorry to hear this book didn’t quite live up to your expectations. Does sounds like an interesting premise.
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