"We are of opinion that instead of letting books grow moldy behind an iron grating, far from the vulgar gaze, it is better to let them wear out by being read." - Jules Verne
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Thursday, December 24, 2015
THE WITCH of BLACKBIRD POND by Elizabeth George Speare
First published in 1958
Winner of the 1959 Newberry Medal
When I was a kid I read this book twice, which for me was rare. I have always been one to prefer reading a new book than re-reading an old one. I had an emotional connection to the book dating back to fifth grade. But, I hadn't read it since fifth grade. For me, it was a book that I fondly pulled off of bookshelves as an adult but I never had the courage to re-read it out of fear of spoiling the memory of the book. What if it wasn't nearly as good as I remembered?
Finally, I decided to take the plunge and see if my memory was justified.
The Witch of Blackbird Pond is set in colonial Wethersfield, Connecticut in 1687. 16 year old Kit Tyler is coming from Barbados to live with her aunt who lives in Wethersfield because she is her last surviving relative. Her arrival adds strain to a family that was barely eking out a living.
More importantly, her upbringing in Barbados has not prepared her for life among the Puritans. Her clothes are seen as too frilly (and in reality, they are not suited for the work that everyone has to do just to make it through the day) and her willingness to talk to the elderly Quaker woman who lives on the edge of town makes everyone suspicious of her.
As a deadly illness spreads through town, Kit hears complaints about the Quaker woman and Kit must decide if she will risk herself to save her friend...
So, did it hold up after all of these years?
Yes, I found myself drawn into the book again. Speare does a masterful job of making the reader identify with Kit, the outsider who is learning about Puritan society along with the reader. Puritan society is portrayed is being much richer, much more nuanced than it usually is. The religion is practiced and debated by men of all social classes. Local politics comes into play as well.
I am pleased that I can still rate this book 5 stars out of 5.
This book can be found on Amazon.com here: The Witch of Blackbird Pond