A Discovery of Witches – A Novel
April 10, 2013 5 Comments
I always love when a book with a tantalizing title also has “A Novel” in tiny text on the cover. This is important to note as it means there’s truth between the pages, and the potential for emotional journeys and entertainment for the reader.
My sister recently read A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness and handed it to me as a “must read” with the qualification that Ms. Harkness is a historian with a variety of scholarly credentials and an award winning Wine Blog! That’s a triple score for me. I promised a friend she could read it after me so I started reading on Sunday morning, without even a glance at the blurb, and by the time I hit page 200 I had to pause and laugh because:
1. Nothing had really happened yet in the story
2. I was reading a vampire romance (I don’t!)
3. There’s all kinds of history and science references discussed – in a library (No Action!)
4. I was having the most enjoyable reading experience!
I finished this book on Tuesday afternoon, an hour before leaving for grandson activities. I’m a fast reader but I closed the book for a leisurely excursion with Ed on Sunday, and took care of all kinds of home/work tasks while in the flow of the story. This is a book that does not grab-you-by-the-throat-to-keep-turning-pages-in-nail-biting-need-to-find-out-what-happens-while-you-burn-dinner-can’t-sleep- BUT it does tantalize in the opening paragraph and continues to do so, with every word.
It’s a book to savor, and I will many times, because as a writer I reread and review. Stories that improve with each reread – remain. And this is one I will reread soon, when I get it back from my friend, and before I lend it to my daughter.
The final chapters revealed that this stage of the story is over, in only 579 pages and with no surprise tornado, and all the characters wandered away to rest and regroup for when the next stage of the story will begin. Fortunately book 2 is already available, but it’s a trilogy and according to the author’s website the final part is still in process. I’m content with book one.
Here’s what the story is about that makes it timely/or timeless: forbidden love. Two species may not mingle. Witches and Vampires cannot be friends – or marry. This basic plot has been part of the human social order during my life whether it was illegal for blacks and whites to marry, or Jew-gentile, same sex partners, or even those forbidden marriages between Catholics & Christians! What makes A Discovery of Witches unique is it includes the forbidden marriage between science and magic.
I love characters who know their stuff when they discuss technology, philosophy, science, history, magic, and moon phases. I’m a really picky reader with lots of go-to authors so I will pass by many books unless someone I trust says, “You’ve gotta read this.”
I’m glad I did.
This story includes libraries, a family homestead, herbal teas, cookies, and a variety of great wines – all my comforts. I’d add most of the characters to my Christmas Card mailing list even though their addresses exist in the 4th dimension. Sigh.
A Novel can take decades to create and be read in a few hours or days by a reader. Yet when a classic plot is transformed to explore a social truth in a new way, the reader benefits from that point of view.
The story begins with an old book and I have a collection of old books from my dad. Now I’m fighting a sudden urge to go inhale their dusty scent and feel the energy of the covers. Now I also have this truth repeating in my head:
A Novel is only created in a Write Mind when Time has no hold on the story.