The Witchfinder’s Sister by Beth Underdown
I’ve been fascinated with “witches” being burned or hanged as a way to control women for whatever reason for a long time, so I was excited to read this historical novel by Beth Underdown. It’s told from the point of view of the sister of the embittered Mathew Hopkins, who found a legal way to murder women.
Hopkins was a real man, but much else of the story was conjecture or fabrication on the part of Underdown because there was so little documentation to go on. Still, it makes for a fascinating story of the horrors of the way this claim of “witch” was to get rid of “drunken women, women who had inconvenient babies or bawled insults in the streets.”
Set in 1645, sister Alice Hopkins comes home widowed and pregnant and doesn’t want to believe her brother is spearheading this effort, but when he drags her along to find proof of these witches, she tries her best to thwart his efforts, but she has no power.
When a woman miscarried, a woman that she or her husband might have had a resentment toward might be accused of being a witch. To prove this, the women would be tortured for hours by being put in uncomfortable positions without sleep until they “confessed.” Similarly, bad crop yields could be blamed on someone the farmer didn’t like.
I found this an intriguing glimpse into the horrors of this time in our history.
Thanks to NetGalley for an opportunity to review this novel.