The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane: Connie’s Story

I’m having a really hard time finding a focus for the review of Katherine Howe’s novel, hence the delay with this post.  This was my first time reading historical fiction and for the most part, I enjoyed it. Howe is able to set up Connie’s story and fill in enough history to allow the reader to understand its context without sounding like a textbook or a history lecture.

I found Howe’s novel absorbing.  Connie Goodwin was a relatable character.  Smart, perceptive and living a quiet life.  Immediately her relationship with her mother grabs me.  Those of you who have read previous posts know of my love for mother-daughter stories.  And, though this novel is about Deliverance Dane, it is also about Connie’s relationship with herself, her mother and her ancestral history.

Connie’s story is not an uncommon one in women’s literature: a young woman who finds herself while uncovering the mysteries of an old house and, in turn,  discovers her family’s history.  She also falls in love in the process with a man who just happens to share her interest in seventeenth century American history and architecture.

Howe’s plot is not the most perfectly veiled – but, it is interesting.  At least for someone like me – someone who knows very little about the Salem Witch Trials.  Connie is like a private tutor in all things American Puritan culture and the witch craze.  And, we get to see her understand the relationship with her mother, fall in love, save the man she loves and make a whopper of a discovery about herself.

There were many moments when I felt stagnant.  I would read and read and not much was developed in the way of character or plot – but perhaps that is a virtue of historical fiction since so many historical facts and details need to be included in order to validate the plot.  Lots of background without much movement forward is what I felt.  I didn’t mind so much since I find that moment in American history intriguing.  Howe’s writing is beautiful – but there were times where I felt it was trying too hard and was a bit too long.

All in all, Connie Goodwin was a solid though predictable protagonist, but it was Deliverance Dane’s story that really intrigued me.  More on that next week.

Have you finished Howe’s novel?  What are your thoughts on it?

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