Title: A Delusion of Satan
Author: Frances Hill
Rating Out of 5: 3 (On the fence about this one)
My Bookshelves: History, Non-fiction
Format: Non-fictional text
Publisher: The Perseus Books Group
5th sentence, 74th page: Either way, when Lawson and she finished talking she was standing by the door, about to leave, when she suddenly screamed.
During the bleak winter of 1692 in the rigid Puritan community of Salem Village, Massachusetts, a group of young girls began experiencing violent fits, allegedly tormented by Satan and the witches who worshipped him. From the girls’ initial denouncing of an Indian slave, the accusations soon multiplied. In less than two years, nineteen men and women were hanged, one was pressed to death, and over a hundred others were imprisoned and impoverished.
This evenhanded and now-classic history illuminates the horrifying episode with visceral clarity, from the opportunistic Putnam clan, who fanned the crisis to satisfy personal vendettas and greed, to four-year-old “witch” Dorcas Good, chained to a dank prison wall in darkness till she went mad. By placing the distant period of the Salem witch trials in the larger context of more contemporary eruptions of mass hysteria and intolerance, the author has created a work as thought-provoking as it is emotionally powerful.
I don’t often read non-fictions, and I rarely read historical books, something that I am slowly changing. So reading A Delusion of Satan was a nice change of pace and a very pleasant surprise. Unlike a lot of research that I have done previously into the Salem Witch Trials, this book provided an in depth, logical insight into the hysteria and actions surrounding such a dramatic and horrific period in America’s history.
Hill fantastically utilises primary sources within her work and this, combined with a thorough analysis of witness testimonies, builds a detailed and insightful look into the witch burnings of the 1690s. She also investigates the ways in which group mentality can be hugely harmful to the minority. In Hill’s forward, she compares and contrasts this phenomenon with today’s mentality and fear of sexual predation upon toddlers and children. This contrast really helps to place the atrocities into context within our modern times.
Hill’s writing is not only engaging and insightful, the flow of her words and arguments bring this world and time to life in the mind’s eye. It can be difficult to find an engaging non-fiction text at times, since the words often can’t be embellished. However, Hill manages to do this fantastically, she takes the truth and a captivating period in history and make the idiosyncrasies of that time accessible for those of us who haven’t got a degree in history.
|<- More history book reviews||More non-fiction book reviews ->|