Jeanne L. (bkydbirder) - , reviewed A Delusion of Satan: The Full Story of the Salem Witch Trials on
Well researched but harrowing. How sad that life was the way it was under the Puritans. I learned a lot from this book about the life styles, mores and religious expectations at the time. The style of writing made it easy to read - much like a novel. Such a very sad time in our history but if anyone wants to know just what happened in Salem at the time of the "witch hunts", this is the book!
layle1 reviewed A Delusion of Satan: The Full Story of the Salem Witch Trials on
While well-researched, this account of the Salem witch trials suffers from the author's speculations at times. The biggest problem facing all writers of this incident in our history is the dearth of personal accounts. Puritan society, by and large, was not made up of diarists, so all feelings and sources of behavior attributed to the participants -- both accused and accusers -- typically fit the writer's theory du jour. Hill briefly addresses previous writers' theories, either to burst them or enfold them into her own that the psychological condition of hysteria overtook the town and allowed certain citizens to make power grabs and/or get rid of undesired villagers. She makes a strong case, but the reader should keep a weather eye on the references in the back to weed out the supposition from the facts. As another reviewer notes, it often "reads like a novel." I think this is the first indication that the facts may have been construed to the benefit of the belief.
Beyond what, for me, was the distraction of the author's transference, the book is still a solid and easily read account of that winter's horror. It includes contextual information about Puritan society overall, and some of the tensions within the village. Here, though, the author alludes to conflicts culled from official papers. She leaves you wanting for details she doesn't have, and then interprets the sparse facts to bolster her theory. It's possible her interpretation is correct, but without personal accounts to support the official documents one cannot be sure.
This is neither a definitive account nor a specious interpretation of the facts. It languishes somewhere in the middle of all the different texts, as a short, easily digestible chronicle. Hill's 2002 preface also provides a window into her mindset at the time of the mid-nineties writing.