This intriguing debut by Beth Underdown is a novel based on witch hunting prevalent in Europe during the early 17th century, and you can find it here. The story revolves around the life of a real life witch hunter Matthew Hopkins and is told to you by his sister Alice. Alice is pregnant and after the death of her husband must return to Matthew ‘s (her brother) house in Manningtree, which is a small village in Essex. Oh, and some of the links here go to Amazon and if you purchase anything through them we might receive a small commission.
After the sudden death of her husband, Alice is apprehensive about whether she will be welcomed in her brother’s house or not. Her step-mom also had passed away recently, and Alice now has nowhere to go apart from her brother’s house in Manningtree.
Both brother and sister, were close during childhood but Matthew never gave his approval to Alice’s marriage with the son of a family servant and since then terms between them have not been so good. Since, Alice has nowhere to go, she makes the move and is relived to reach Thorn Inn, now owned by her brother. Matthew accepts her and allows her to stay with him at Manningtree.
Alice soon discovers many things about her brother and realises that he is not the same man she left before her marriage. After a few years Matthew had some sort of a reputation and had become a man of some influence in the area. But it was not long before Alice hears some very disturbing news about her brother’s involvement in allegations revolving around witchcraft of several local women.
At first, like any sister she refused to believe any of it, but later when she herself discovers that Matthew is creating a list of other suspected women and is collecting evidence and convening trials for the same, she then understands that Matthew is a very dangerous and unpredictable man.
Beth has very beautifully depicted the uneasy or abnormal relationship between Matthew and Alice. She shows how Alice tries to defy him in small but petty things, such as by visiting her mother in law, which is against Matthew’s wish or even helping the women who were being accused by Matthew for witch craft.
Beth in this novel paints a very intriguing image of Matthew that too from Alice’s eyes and travels back and forth to their childhood to relate to Matthew’s present. She depicts Alice as one who is trying to remember the little boy Matthew was and what he has become now. Alice then even tries to dig into their family secrets which would likely threaten her own life.
Although the book in the beginning feels a bit slow and the continuous reminiscences of Alice sometimes obstruct the flow of present moments of the story, but this subtle menace is necessary to intelligently manage the subject matter.
The fact that Beth had done a thorough research before writing this piece is appropriately depicted in the book. Even the minute details of the sounds, fragrances and the sights of 17th century England are very suggestive and enables readers to really imagine themselves in the middle of those streets.
Beth has brilliantly shown how dangerous the world was for a woman in those times. By putting Alice in the centre stage of the novel, Beth has finely worked out without violating any periodical norms and enables her heroine to discover what Matthew was actually up to.
The subject is well-researched and this historical fiction has perfectly constructed the life of Matthew Hopkins especially when not enough material is available for the same. This book is ideal for those who don’t know enough about this dark period of the English history and are looking forward to know more or are interested to know more about the lives of 17th century Englishmen.
The Witchfinder’s Sister Synopsis
A very clever debut, The Witch Finder’s Sister is centred on the life of Matthew Hopkins, the real-life infamous witch finder of 17th century England. Very little is known about this man, but Beth via this novel has depicted this intriguing personality from the eyes of his own fictional sister Alice in a very personal way.
The Witchfinder’s Sister Ending
This is a very clever novel that stay’s faithful to the times and premise it portrays. In actual, people know very little about the sudden demise of this infamous witch finder and this aspect is used by Beth very intelligently. She has created a sudden twist towards the end, giving the indication that darkness is always there and you cannot get away with it.
The last part of this novel is I think its strongest part. Where Alice unwillingly starts to take part in things she had until now been describing. The ending ramps up the atmosphere and thickens the pervasive environment of oppression.
The Witch Finder’s Sister is the first novel by Beth Underdown, she studied at the University of York and then shifted to University of Manchester and at present is also a lecturer in creative writing in the same University.
The Witch Finder’s Sister being her first novel is based on the story of Matthew Hopkins and is pictured in and around 1640s. Her great uncle David Underdown, was the inspiration that ignited a spark in Beth to write something that revolves around seventeenth century England. David Underdown is known as one of the foremost historians of the times.